Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

More Local Heat: MSNBC.com Buys EveryBlock for Several Million Dollars

everyblock_logo

It looks like the local market is heating up even more, with MSNBC.com announcing the acquisition of Chicago-based EveryBlock.

MSNBC.com–a joint venture of Microsoft (MSFT) and GE (GE) unit NBC Universal–paid several million dollars for the “hyper-local” information site, which is up and running in 15 cities, including New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and Boston, sources said.

In June, Time Warner (TWX) online unit AOL paid about $10 million to buy Patch Media.

The New York-based start-up is a platform that does deeply localized coverage of communities on a range of topics, from announcements to news to events to obituaries. It is aimed at competing with local newspapers and other media.

EveryBlock takes a slightly different approach, scouring a mass of publicly available data in a variety of U.S. cities from a variety of public records–such as crime stats, building permits and restaurant inspections–and reassembling them into more comprehensible and geographically relevant news feeds, depending on what a user asks for.

It also pulls up related Flickr photos and information from Web sites like Yelp and Daily Candy and can get very granular, down to keeping track of what is happening on your block or neighborhood.

Maps are also deeply integrated into EveryBlock, as it was on an earlier effort–ChicagoCrime.org–of founder Adrian Holovaty.

The innovative little start-up has a tiny staff of a half-dozen, still calls itself a “project” on its Web site and was started with $1.1 million in grant money won from the Knight News Challenge, an annual contest held by the Knight Foundation.

MSNBC.com is the news channel for Microsoft’s MSN portal, whose execs are very interested in weaving more local results into the site, as well as into the software giant’s new search offering, Bing.

The aim of having EveryBlock data integrated, for example, would be to create a local information dashboard on MSN.

Here’s a screen grab of EveryBlock’s take on my zip code in San Francisco, below (click on the image to make it larger)–and a video interview with Holovaty on YoChicago in early 2008:

EveryBlock


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik