It's been a year and a half now since I've started working on EveryBlock, and I'm still having the time of my life. Starting from scratch in July 2007, our team of six has built a one-of-a-kind local news site that now serves 11 cities and makes more than a hundred distinct types of local information useful to people. By all measures, from passionate user feedback to press coverage to traffic numbers to influence on other projects, the site is a success, and we're incredibly proud of our work.
Thanks to our out-of-the-ordinary funding — a generous grant from Knight Foundation — our team has been given free rein to invent a new form of news, and, more importantly, iterate on the concept. (Check out our recent one-year anniversary blog post to see how much we've changed.) This sort of experimentation is sorely needed by the news industry, and we're very lucky to have this opportunity — particularly considering the economy and the trend for news organizations to cut staff rather than invest in innovation.
But now we've reached an interesting point in our project's growth: our grant ends on June 30, and, under the terms of our grant, we're open-sourcing the EveryBlock publishing system so that anybody will be able to take the code to create similar sites. That's a Good Thing, in that EveryBlock's philosophies and tools will have the opportunity to spread around the world much faster than we could have done on our own, but it puts the six of us EveryBlockers in an odd spot. How do we sustain our project if our code is free to the world?
We have a number of ideas for sustaining our project beyond a dependency on grants, like building a local advertising engine and/or selling hosted versions of the open-source software, but we're sure there are other ways for EveryBlock to be a successful business. That brings me to the reason I'm posting this — we're looking for ideas and partners who would be interested in helping us figure this out. If you have any ideas or suggestions, get in touch with me. I'm confident we'll make something happen; it's just a matter of how.