EveryBlock is a new local “news” site that seeks to answer the question, “What’s happening in my neighborhood?” It aggregates data and content from a variety of sources and currently covers three US cities: Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. EveryBlock competes with Outside.in, YourStreet, and Topix to some degree. We noticed the site based on a post at TechCrunch.
The site features three types of “news,” according to the EveryBlock blog:
Civic information — building permits, crimes, restaurant inspections, and more. In many cases, this information is already on the Web but is buried in hard-to-find government databases. In other cases, this information has never been posted online, and we’ve forged relationships with governments to make it available.
News articles and blog entries — major newspapers, community weeklies, TV and radio news stations, local specialty publications and local blogs. We do the work of classifying articles by geography, so you can easily find the mainstream media coverage near particular locations.
Fun from across the Web — local photos posted to the Flickr photo-sharing site, user reviews of local businesses on Yelp, missed connections from Craigslist and more. We figure out the relevant places and point you to location-specific items you might not have known about.
There’s a fair amount of “news you can use” in this mix, in a variety of graphical formats, including images, charts, and maps. Behind the site are Adrian Holovaty and Wilson Miner, who developed ChicagoCrime.org, one of the early mashups. Holovaty is also a former journalist.
Steven Johnson, CEO of Outside.in, thoughtfully illustrates the challenges and issues that confront hyper-local sites such as his and now EveryBlock. Among other things:
The other complication here is that the correct scale of hyperlocal news varies depending on the nature of the news itself. Pothole repair may die out beyond a few blocks, but many happenings — crimes or political rallies or controversial real estate development — reverberate more widely. Going local sometimes requires that you zoom in all the way to the block level, even all the way to the individual address. But sometimes you need to zoom out too.
EveryBlock is impressive but it strikes me that it needs both more and less focus, to get the “calibration” right. While there’s lots of interesting information here, EveryBlock doesn’t yet compellingly answer the question: Why should I use this site?