MSNBC.com–a joint venture of Microsoft and GE unit NBC Universal–paid several million dollars to acquire the micro-local news website EveryBlock, the companies announced today. The Chicago-based project for hyperlocal reporting has grown since its inception to provide local sites in 15 American cities.
The EveryBlock project began in 2007, after web developer and journalist Adrien Holovaty won the annual Knight Foundation News Challenge, a contest that awards grants to digital innovators committed to improving news distribution at the community level. Holovaty’s brainchild, EveryBlock, stated as its goal, “To create, test and release open-source software that links databases to allow citizens of a large city to learn (and act on) civic information about their neighborhood or block.” The Knight Foundation awarded Holovaty $1.1 million to develop and launch the site, and at the end of the grant term, to release the open-source code, which EveryBlock did on June 30, 2009.
EveryBlock has sites for Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Each site provides business reviews, police blotters, local photos, building permits, and more, and allows users to take their inquiry down to the zip code, and even street level.
The merger represents another development in the growing hyper-local news industry. The online local-advertising market is projected to grow 5.4% in 2009 to $13.3 billion, according to media research firm Borrell Associates. Projections like these have made hyperlocal a trend to watch every year since 2004, though many local sites have yet to find significant financial success.
Adrian Holovaty posted the news on the company’s blog, assuring users and colleagues that little will change. “We’ll continue to run the first and best microlocal news Web site on the planet, with the same six people, with the same logo and design, with the same everyblock.com domain,” Holovaty emphasized in a post on his personal blog.