Community news website Everyblock.com shut down Thursday, to the surprise of its active user base. The decision was made by NBC News, the corporate owner of the site since 2009.
In a short blog post "increasing challenges to building a profitable business" are cited as a reason for the shutdown. All ten current employees are laid off- seven in Chicago, one in Seattle and two in New York.
The site was founded in Chicago by Adrian Holovaty in 2007 with a grant from the Knight Foundation. In 2008 the site launched with a four person staff.
"Adrian Holovaty was an early innovator in using data to drive community," said NBC News chief digital strategist Vivian Schiller Thursday.
Schiller answered WBEZ's questions about the shut down via email.
"As we continue to grow and evolve the NBC News Digital portfolio, we are focused on investing in content, products and platforms that play to our core strengths," Schiller said. "The decision to shut down the site was difficult, but in the end, we didn't see a strategic fit for EveryBlock within the portfolio."
Schiller said NBC News looked at various options both inside and outside the company to keep Everyblock running.
"But sadly, none of them were viable," she said.
Msnbc.com bought the site in 2009 for an undisclosed sum, though the original computer code was made available for free in accordance with their Knight grant.
Holovaty left Everyblock in August 2012 and says in a blog post on his personal site that he had reason to believe the site's future was safe.
"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," the post reads.
Schiller declined to share any information about Everyblock's operating expenses or revenues.
Shocked users are airing their greivances in the comment section of Everyblock's final blog post. There were nearly 300 comments less than two hours after the article publishing.
Fans of the site are paying homage on Twitter. Dan Sinker, of @mayoremanuel and Knight-Mozilla OpenNews tweeted, "Long live the huge legacy and hundreds of sites built in the space its founders singlehandedly created."
"Everyblock had a small but very loyal set of consumers, particularly in Chicago," Schiller said. "We hope Everyblock helped them be better neighbors and that they are able to carry that spirit forward on other platforms."
In a post from August, Holovaty reflected on his time with Everyblock. He claimed that Instagram founder Kevin Systrom learned much of the coding language that powers the billion dollar app from Everyblock's source code and personally thanked him.
Others have credited Everyblock with kick-starting a movement in data journalism. Chris Cast, a web developer from Seattle tweeted, "Sad to hear about
#everyblock. They did more for open data than we realize."
Chicago's Chief Technology Officer John Tolva credited Holovaty with "starting the fire" of government data transparency.
Alderman Joe Moore of Chicago's 49th Ward was an avid user as well. He said, "I know some of my colleagues didn't always like it because it provided an opportunity to beat up on the alderman, but I thought the benefits outweighed the negatives."
"I'm going to miss it for two reasons: one, it provided me another avenue to communicate with my constituents. And two it provided me a window into what my constituents were thinking. By finding out what my constituents were thinking, I was able to be a better alderman," Moore said.
The following statement was posted on the Everyblock blog:
We’re sorry to report that EveryBlock has closed its doors.
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.
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. Along the way, we hope we’ve helped you be a better neighbor.
Adrian Holovaty posted the following statement on his personal website, Holovaty.com:
I'm very saddened by today's news that EveryBlock has been shut down by NBC News.
I founded EveryBlock in 2007 after receiving a grant from the Knight Foundation. It was launched in January 2008 by an original team of four (Wilson Miner, Dan O'Neil, Paul Smith and me) and was acquired by msnbc.com in 2009. NBC News acquired msnbc.com last year and now has decided to shut down the site and let go all 10 employees.
The premise of EveryBlock was to offer you a custom site devoted to news in your neighborhood. We showed you nearby public records (crimes, building permits, restaurant inspections), pointed you to automatically indexed articles (newspapers, blogs, forums) and provided a sort of "geo-forum" that let you talk with people who lived near you. I wrote a bit about the site's legacy several months ago.
I left EveryBlock in August, after five years, as I was itching to make something new. 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"). 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.
I'd like to thank all the EveryBlock employees past and present, along with the members of the EveryBlock community. It was a great site, beautifully designed and lovingly crafted. It made a difference for people, particularly in Chicago.
More than six years ago, I wrote a blog post that got some attention about how newspaper (and, really, journalism) sites needed to change. EveryBlock was an attempt at that kind of change -- in my eyes, a successful attempt. EveryBlock was among the more innovative and ambitious journalism projects at a time when journalism desperately needed innovation and ambition. RIP.
This story is developing and will be updated as more information is made available.