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EveryBlock Shut Down: NBC Abruptly Kills Popular Hyper-Local News Site

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EVERYBLOCK SHUT DOWN
NBC, which took full ownership of Everyblock over from MSNBC in 2011, shuttered the site without warning Feb. 7. (Alamy) | Alamy

EveryBlock users were shocked to learn NBC had abruptly pulled the plug on the popular crowdsourced, hyper-local neighborhood news website Thursday morning.

Visitors to the site saw a dark page as of Thursday, with a message reading:

"We’re sorry to report that EveryBlock has closed its doors. Thank you for having let us play a role in how you get your neighborhood news. Thanks for the contributions, for the questions, and for allowing us to connect you to each other, in many cases to make great things happen in your community."

A final blog post from the team continued:

"It’s no secret that the news industry is in the midst of a massive change. Within the world of neighborhood news there’s an exciting pace of innovation yet increasing challenges to building a profitable business. Though EveryBlock has been able to build an engaged community over the years, we’re faced with the decision to wrap things up."

The shuttering was so unexpected, however, it may have even caught EveryBlock staffers themselves by surprise: A blog on the site posted just before the team's Thursday farewell message announced the launch of the new EveryBlock neighbor ads.

Vivian Schiller, senior vice president and chief digital officer of NBC News, told Poynter via email, “[EveryBlock] is a wonderful scrappy business but it wasn’t a strategic fit with our growth strategy and — like most hyperlocal businesses — was struggling with the business model.”

The "scrappy" business expanded to a total of 19 cities since it was founded by Chicago-area native Adrian Holovaty in 2007. Holovaty began EveryBlock in 2007 after being awarded a $1.1 million Knight Foundation grant. In 2009, MSNBC.com acquired the business, which was then absorbed by NBC News last year.

(Scroll down for Twitter reactions to EveryBlock's shutdown.)

Schiller told the Tribune EveryBlock's financial losses "were considerable," put didn't provide specifics. "Hyper local is a very tough business. This isn't about anything being a failure, but more about our need to stay focused on the strengths of NBC News' digital portfolio."

After initial reports that all of the EveryBlock staffers would be out in the cold following the shutdown, the LA Times reports NBC said that it was working with individual staffers to see if "there are other roles for them inside NBCU."

Holovaty, who officially left the site last August to pursue other projects (he's also a gypsy-jazz guitarist who plays gigs around Chicago) wrote in a blog post Thursday that the shutdown news caught him completely by surprise.

"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')," Holovaty wrote. "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."

As WBEZ notes, open-data advocates have credited EveryBlock with kick-starting a data-driven journalism movement.

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