Blog Post

MSNBC.com’s EveryBlock Targets A Widget At Local News Blogs

A year after EveryBlock was sold to MSNBC.com, the hyperolocal aggregator is beginning to focus on increasing the distribution of its feeds, which include the latest 911 dispatches, restaurant inspections, and local news pieces — all filtered by location.

Founder Adrian Holovaty tells us EveryBlock is launching an “intensely” customizable widget today, which third party sites will be able to embed in order to include the latest information about a specific location on their sites. Widgets have been a boon for some other hyperlocal aggregators, including Outside.in and Fwix, which have gotten several major publishers to adopt them.

Holovaty and MSNBC.com director of new product development Cory Bergman, however, tell us that EveryBlock is primarily aiming its widget at the “explosion” of neighborhood news blogs, instead of major sites. That makes sense, considering that EveryBlock’s data-heavy feeds compliment local coverage well, instead of duplicating it, which news-heavy widgets from Outside.in and Fwix might.

The first sites to adopt the EveryBlock widget include MyBallard, a neighborhood news blog in Seattle started by Bergman and his wife, along with several neighborhood news blogs in Chicago, where EveryBlock is based.

The widgets don’t include ads, although they do include listings for local deals from Groupon and Valpak since that is information that EveryBlock aggregates. Holovaty says the site is still not focused on building up its revenue, which Bergman calls “very small.” As for traffic, he says it has “spiked” in markets where the company has changed the way its feeds are integrated with MSNBC.com. In some markets, like New York City, logged-in MSNBC.com users now see lists of headlines from EveryBlock, along with listings for local deals from Groupon. In others, like Seattle, logged-in MSNBC.com users instead see prominent icons representing photos, 911 dispatches and media reports, which they can then click on in order to see local data from EveryBlock.

As for the timing of the new feature, Holovaty says the site is launching the widget now because it wasn’t on the company’s “radar” prior to its purchase by MSNBC.com, when it was being funded by a grant from the Knight Foundation. “We weren’t really concerned about distribution and all that stuff,” he says.