RIP EveryBlock

Written by Adrian Holovaty on February 7, 2013

I'm very saddened by today's news that EveryBlock has been shut down by NBC News.

I founded EveryBlock in 2007 after receiving a grant from the Knight Foundation. It was launched in January 2008 by an original team of four (Wilson Miner, Dan O'Neil, Paul Smith and me) and was acquired by msnbc.com in 2009. NBC News acquired msnbc.com last year and now has decided to shut down the site and let go all 10 employees.

The premise of EveryBlock was to offer you a custom site devoted to news in your neighborhood. We showed you nearby public records (crimes, building permits, restaurant inspections), pointed you to automatically indexed articles (newspapers, blogs, forums) and provided a sort of "geo-forum" that let you talk with people who lived near you. I wrote a bit about the site's legacy several months ago.

I left EveryBlock in August, after five years, as I was itching to make something new. I had no idea NBC News would be shutting it down (in fact, at the time, I said I expected it would be around for a "long, long time"). The last time I talked with an NBC News representative, at a conference a few months after I left EveryBlock, he indicated that NBC was optimistic about the site's future.

I'd like to thank all the EveryBlock employees past and present, along with the members of the EveryBlock community. It was a great site, beautifully designed and lovingly crafted. It made a difference for people, particularly in Chicago.

More than six years ago, I wrote a blog post that got some attention about how newspaper (and, really, journalism) sites needed to change. EveryBlock was an attempt at that kind of change -- in my eyes, a successful attempt. EveryBlock was among the more innovative and ambitious journalism projects at a time when journalism desperately needed innovation and ambition. RIP.

Comments

Posted by Jeff Judge on February 7, 2013 at 11:17 a.m.:

I still can't believe the news, it's a very sad day. I had stopped using the site for awhile due to the general tone and tenor of discussions (lot of angry people out there), but had recently come back because it was just too damn useful to ignore.

Do you think anything could be done with the Everyblock assets post shut down?

Posted by Michelle "DJ Shelly" Burke on February 7, 2013 at 11:21 a.m.:

Adrian, I had no idea that you had left. I'm still shocked. :( I thought EB was successful as well. Keep in touch! :)

Posted by Andy Detskas on February 7, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.:

I'm saddened to hear this news, I've followed your progress with EB for years and sympathized with your desire to try new ideas out. Thanks for thinking of such a great idea and then making it happen! My hope now is NBC has brains enough to seek (or allow for) a new owner.

Posted by Tim on February 7, 2013 at 12:03 p.m.:

Very sorry to see the site shut down. I'm one of the lucky ones in Chicago who benefited from the active discussion of issues going on in my neighborhood (Edgewater).

Posted by Dan Korn on February 7, 2013 at 12:06 p.m.:

Can you bring back chicagocrime.org?

Posted by Anton Parkhomenko on February 7, 2013 at 12:39 p.m.:

Still doesn't get the reasons. Was it unprofitable or contravened with company strategy?
I'm started a similar project for my city based on OpenBlock few weeks ago and wondering about it's future now.

Posted by E Boyd on February 7, 2013 at 12:56 p.m.:

This is an utterly clueless move on the part of NBC News, though unsurprising given the network's dreadful Olympic coverage and general focus on infotainment. This calls for extra-long pin in my Matt Lauer voodoo doll.

Posted by Charlie Meyerson on February 7, 2013 at 1:03 p.m.:

Adrian, the journalism world owes you and your (former) colleagues a debt of gratitude for blazing this trail. EveryBlock won't be forgotten, and its work will light the way for others to follow.

Thanks.

Charlie

Posted by Sharon Krohn on February 7, 2013 at 1:10 p.m.:

I too, was surprised and saddened to hear this news. As a relative newcomer to EveryBlock, I have enjoyed participating on the site since last summer. The conversations enabled me to connect with my community and helped give Lakeview a small-town feel. Through the site we shared discussions of issue that matter to our neighborhood, including store openings and closings, local events and crime notices. I am truly sorry to see you go

Posted by zarfmouse on February 7, 2013 at 1:13 p.m.:

This is a real blow for community.

I wonder if the site could be open sourced and made non-profit/volunteer/donor supported? I would definitely pay to help support a service like this, just as I pay for Wikipedia and my favorite NPR programs.

I wonder if anyone is waiting in the wings to fill the niche that will be left open by this closure?

I wonder if the old data/posts will be archived somewhere (archive.org?) for posterity?

I wonder if we can we ever trust Big/Old Media as stewards of innovation like this?

I loved the fact that in an anonymous big city like Chicago I could find out what was going on on my block. People would organize exercise groups and other informal neighborhood activities. We could share what we knew about breaking events (what was that loud noise! why is traffic snarled up so badly today? What's going on with that construction project?). It really made me feel more connected to my neighborhood and I felt like it was just the beginning. It had so much potential.

Posted by suzikg on February 7, 2013 at 1:25 p.m.:

This is another example of NBC stepping in and ruining an extremely informative and useful entity. The Weather Channel has gone downhill ever since it was purchased by NBC and no longer has the best interests of the citizens of our country as their priority. TWC has become nothing more than an over-glorified, storm-naming reality show network.

Shame on you, NBC, for taking Everyblock down. It is a wonderful neighborhood service that will be sorely missed.

Posted by E. Boyd on February 7, 2013 at 1:47 p.m.:

Adrian-Did you seriously think MSNBC was going to keep a hyperlocal site going? These multinational media corporations are not about news, they are about monetization. Until local news organizations start resisting the temptation to cash out, this will keep happening.

Posted by Bart Brouwers on February 7, 2013 at 2:46 p.m.:

Everyblock was an important inspiration source for dichtbij.nl. Thanks for that Adrian!

Posted by Jordan Mills on February 7, 2013 at 7:12 p.m.:

I was really surprised to get the email. I used it all the time, and was finally getting my new neighbors on to it. The concept was awesome, and I don't know of anyone who has built a new aggregator that indexes by location.

Man, I wish we could build a replacement for Houston fast.

Posted by Steven Clift on February 7, 2013 at 7:59 p.m.:

Adrian, it would be great to learn your top five lessons from the experience.

As a non-profit in the online neighbor connecting space we have interest in low cost or volunteer inspiring aspects of EveryBlock we might deploy with our 20,000 users.

On a related note, folks interested in neighborhoods online are invited to join the Locals Online community of practice. Join at: http://e-democracy.org/locals

Posted by Thom Clark on February 7, 2013 at 8:05 p.m.:

I remember fondly Adrian our conversation a few years ago at one of our conferences, debating whether EveryBlock coders were reporters or journalists. I'm disappointed corporate media business strategy will rob citizens of an important source of information.

Posted by Joe Olivier on February 7, 2013 at 8:59 p.m.:

Maybe you shouldn't have sold out.

Posted by Paul B on February 7, 2013 at 9:15 p.m.:

This was the best site ever!!!! All my local happenings in my zip code!!!!! The best were the local real estate listings- and all the yelp reviews that you sorted by zip...... A website go bust............unheard of!

Posted by Lane Campbell on February 7, 2013 at 9:28 p.m.:

I still remember when you launched Everyblock (ChicagoCrime.org) as Django was maturing. Today was a shock and another wake up call that nothing online is really "forever" as many like to suggest.

Posted by Erik Reppen on February 8, 2013 at 8:22 a.m.:

My money is on corporate strategy or incompetence. I think NBC has the money to keep a skeleton crew version of a 10-man team around for a month to more gracefully retire an online community. It's becoming an interesting issue to me though. Why is it so hard for corporations to understand how severely burned active participants in these communities feel when they kill a product with zero to very-little notice? I wasn't actually that actively invested in the product but having recently felt that burn on another property, I wouldn't touch anything if I knew it was owned by them. Not out of spite but simply from not wanting to invest time/interest into supporting something that's just going to get sunk on a corporate whim. Ultimately, not pissing that many people off was worth a lot more to all of their online efforts than shutting it down. Maybe my first Django project should be building something that helps people track online property shenanigans and the corporate entities responsible.

Posted by Randy Baxley on February 8, 2013 at 9:34 a.m.:

Sorry I could not get out to listen to you last Monday. Crazy winter head cold.

Poking at GitHub and asking around for Hackers to help get something up quickly. The community is indeed burned and needs something quickly to get us back together. Reddit is just too visually unappealing.

Posted by Adelaide Chen on February 8, 2013 at 2:34 p.m.:

Find out why they shut down EveryBlock...and then rebuild it to be even better. I think sites like this are more secure in the hands of nonprofits like Sunlight Foundation, not businesses who need to see profit in order to consider something valuable.

Posted by Nick Zubek on February 8, 2013 at 4:16 p.m.:

Adrian,
Sorry to hear that your brain child was shut down. Corporate structure strikes again I suppose. I used/followed the site long before I knew you and your family. It was an amazing concept, and I was always impressed with the amount of information.
I hope all is well with you and the family!

Posted by bob stepno on February 8, 2013 at 4:28 p.m.:

What would it cost in hosting and maintenance to keep, say, Everyblock Chicago running, ad-free?

Would the community of users pay for the service?

How many (staff & users) would be needed? Could domething like this be "staffed" by semi-retired journalusts, League of Women Voters members, civic groups, etc.? (Maybe not yet, but in 5 years when there are more journo-tech-savvy pensioners like I'll be
:-)

The "national network of local sites" concept didn't seem like a good fit with national media companies whose roots are in one-way "broadcasting," and lately a faux "community" of viewers being entertained and interacting in tweets, #hashtags and idol-vote clicks.

Alternate model?
National archive of code, tools and how-to documentation for Local community implementation?

Posted by Paul S on February 8, 2013 at 6:06 p.m.:

I got feeling reason of closing EB was little different. This site was too independent regarding local news. You had all kind of independent information, crime, meetings but also about shady local government practices, about strange permits and zoning changes. People exchanged information, discussed which government going to like it and tolerate it. So now you got local (corporate) TV, radio and newspapers. Maybe this is conspiracy theory, maybe not.

Posted by Frank on February 8, 2013 at 9:40 p.m.:

Sources Tuesday said Wert, president and general manager of NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, could be on the verge of taking a top-level broadcasting job with Chicago-based Tribune

http://www.bizjournals.com/chicago/news/2013/02/05/is-chicago-tv-exec-larry-wert-headed.html

Kill the competition first?

Posted by Nick on February 10, 2013 at 12:34 a.m.:

"Adrian, it would be great to learn your top five lessons from the experience."

What is this, a High Fidelity webblog?

Posted by E. Boyd on February 12, 2013 at 12:54 a.m.:

Nick, it was spam and a plea for a listicle all in one post. Impressive.

Posted by Nicholas Gracilla on February 12, 2013 at 9:07 a.m.:

This is very disappointing. I found the conversations and general tenor in my neighborhood areas—Andersonville, Edgewater—to be upbeat and unique. Especially the coyote reports! Everyblock was a product that really met a need. I'm sorry to see it go.

Posted by Seth Barnhart on February 12, 2013 at 11:23 p.m.:

Adrian, I cannot tell you the major force EveryBlock was to me and my neighborhoods, Garfield Park, Lawndale, and The New Breeds Heroin Market. EveryBlock gave us the voice we needed. The ability to stand together. Two summers ago I organized several neighborhood cleanups, they were very successful. I met the wonderful neighbors that are now friends. We tried and failed to save the historic Anshe Kanesses Israel temple. We were currently using it to organize against a zoning change that would have one of our alderman's friends turn five houses on one of our blocks into half way houses. The closing of EveryBlock is a setback for us. Having EveryBlock, even for a short time, forever changed our neighborhood for the better. Thank you!

Posted by Deryck Hodge on February 18, 2013 at 10:31 a.m.:

Sorry to hear this news, Adrian. Everyblock was a great site. You rightfully should be proud of it! Sorry to see it go.

Posted by Will Saunders on February 20, 2013 at 11:55 a.m.:

So sorry to hear of your loss. In contrast to the loss of a person, is it not possible for yourself or some of the team to continue working on the project and bring it back to life if it is popular and can be successful?

Posted by Anonymous on February 22, 2013 at 2:42 p.m.:

Still missing EveryBlock and the positive difference it was making in my Chicago neighborhood. Hoping you will bring it back even better, Adrian.

Posted by gpblight@gmail.com on February 28, 2013 at 12:12 p.m.:

Adrian..is there anything that can be done to reaqcquire Everyblock? Many...found your concept to be a good way to solve institutionalized problems ....

Your site helped us shine the light of day on problems in Chicago Policing. Your site helped to share ideas on how to get city services in Chicago Faster! The good got credit. The bad got a bonk.

Thanks for your idea...innovation requires that ideas be shared for the good of all...

Thank you very much for your SHARING of data.

Posted by Bridget Duggan on March 1, 2013 at 2:52 p.m.:

If the site was such a moneyloss for MSNBC, why didn't they just put more ads on it? There were very few ads at the end, very non-invasive ones, & I don't remember them being a nuisance at all. I'm sure there's a good MSNBC specific reason, but if the code is still available, couldn't someone (ie. you or some of your friends) get *it* back up & running, & with more ads? Or find some angel to put up some dough?

In fact, I bet a lot of people would be happy to pay something on a monthly basis. That would leave a lot of people out, but at least those who really valued everyblock would pay for it initially. Then, make it a free site. Alternatively people could opt to donate a few bucks. I know I would.

Posted by Bones on March 2, 2013 at 6:14 p.m.:

I bow down humbly in the presence of such grteanses.

Posted by Phil Hood on March 11, 2013 at 10:44 a.m.:

Adam,
I finally got around to responding to this. Our neighborhood uses nextdoor.com, everyblock, local crime reports etc. I believe they are incredible tools for the coming unbundling of government, neighborhood self-sufficiency, building community, etc. etc. Can't thank you enough for your work in this area. It has a real impact on people's lives and their sense of community ownership and safety.

What's your advice for relatively non-technical neighborhood leaders who want the kinds of info that everyblock provided? I understand some of the code behind it is open and available? Should we look at other software startups in this space? Or start building local communities of sites using os code?
Philhood@gmail.com

Posted by Jess D on March 18, 2013 at 11:37 a.m.:

I just noticed the past few months a bunch of Everyblock ads in the NYC subway, even in my neighborhood off the beaten path deep in Brooklyn. It sounds like it was a sudden decision.

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