The local news site EveryBlock.com rolled out its first-ever redesign with a new focus on community. Up until now, the site has been a “news feed for your block,” but it’s expanding to become a platform for discussion and recognition around neighborhood news.
(Full disclosure: In my job at msnbc.com, I’ve worked with EveryBlock on the new site. Msnbc.com acquired EveryBlock in August, 2009.)
“Simply put, there’s no great way to communicate with your neighbors online,” says founder Adrian Holovaty in a blog post. “How many people become Facebook friends with their neighbors? How many people in American cities can even name more than a handful of their neighbors?”
The new EveryBlock enables people to post items to their neighbors — for example, a missing pet, upcoming yard sale, an alert about a suspicious vehicle or a question about how to clean up the corner park. Users can “thank” people for their contributions and earn “honors” for being a helpful participant. Through expanded profiles, users can get to know active neighbors nearby.
“Instead of the social graph, it’s the geo graph,” Holovaty explains. Instead of friends or followers, proximity is the connection. “We deliberately haven’t added things like ‘friending’ to EveryBlock; we’re sticking to a lightweight community approach rather than reinventing the wheel. If you want to follow your neighbor’s personal life, friend her on Facebook; if you want to talk about neighborhood issues, use EveryBlock.”
A few email groups and neighborhood blogs across the country have created thriving news communities, including the Seattle blog network I co-founded with my wife, Next Door Media. The problem, however, is these communities are few and far between. EveryBlock is focused on creating a consistent platform that ties meaningful conversations together by proximity. “This is a huge opportunity, and because we’ve already got an audience of people who have registered their interest in given neighborhoods and blocks, we’re in a great position to do it,” Holovaty says.
If you’re already an EveryBlock fan, the new site still has all the news and data you expect to see. You can “follow” multiple places on an integrated dashboard, which also ties to a daily email. Items can be shared via Facebook and Twitter.
Finally, the new site has a loftier mission: to make your block a better place. “The new EveryBlock isn’t just about reading what’s happening in your neighborhood. It’s about getting to know the residents in your community and turning discussions into real-world actions to make your block a better place,” says Becca Martin, EveryBlock’s community manager, who also runs her own Chicago neighborhood site. “The addition of features such as user profiles and Neighborhood Honors are just the start of our plans to transform EveryBlock into a hub for neighborhood conversation.”
And EveryBlock is thinking about these new features in ways that enhance — not compete with — existing neighborhood blogs and local media sites. Stay tuned!
Holovaty will be chatting live on Poynter.org at 10 a.m. PT on Tuesday.