EveryBlock, a hyperlocal news site acquired by msnbc.com in August 2009, unveiled a new version Monday designed to encourage conversation and collaboration among neighbors.
“We’re shifting from a one-way newsfeed to more of a community-empowered website,” says EveryBlock founder Adrian Holovaty. “Instead of going to the site to passively consume information, we’re going to offer a platform for posting messages to your neighbors, to discover who lives near you.”
In addition to the neighborhood-specific news, business reviews, crime reports and real estate listings the site delivered previously, a slew of new features encourages users to share and discuss local news, meet one another and coordinate neighborhood activities. Users will be able to create profiles, post about events and other topics of interest, as well as find neighbors who “follow” the same places to connect with those with similar tastes. (Soon, Holovaty says, the site hopes to integrate Foursquare’s API, but for now it will show neighbors who follow the same places on EveryBlock.)
Adrian and his team are doing great work. He goes on to say…
“The web doesn’t yet offer an easy and effective way for people to post messages to their neighbors,” Holovaty explains. “Other social media tools are focused on people you already know — professional colleagues, friends, family. But how many people become Facebook friends with their neighbors?” he asks.
Front Porch Forum plays this role in our many Vermont pilot communities, and various blogs and e-lists do the same in hundreds of various neighborhoods across North America. The first proof of social media, of course, is adoption… do people use it? We’ll have to wait and see how EveryBlock fares on that front. The second proof — can they make it pay? — well, I imagine Everyblock has more breathing room with deep-pocketed MSNBC.com holding the purse strings.
UPDATE: This bit from the Nieman Journalism Lab includes several more write ups about EveryBlock’s news. The interview on Poynter is especially informative…
Holovaty answered a lot of questions about the redesign in a Poynter chat, saying that the site’s mission has changed from making people informed about their area as an end in itself to facilitating communication between neighbors in order to improve their communities. GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram applauded the shift in thinking, arguing that the main value in local news sites is in the people they connect, not in the data they collect. At 10,000 Words, Jessica Roy noted that the change was a signal that hyperlocal sites should focus not just on the online realm, but on fostering offline connections as well.