Archive for August 2009

Msnbc.com Acquires EveryBlock... Welcome Brother!

News that has been brewing secretly for the last several months finally broke this morning: Msnbc.com has acquired EveryBlock, the most interesting (in my opinion) startup in the hyperlocal news space. It is with great joy that I welcome my colleagues Adrian Holovaty, Wilson Miner, and the rest of the EveryBlock crew to the msnbc.com family to help re-imagine, re-invent, and re-volutionize local news online. You can read several other accounts and descriptions of the acquisition here (msnbc.com, New York Times, EveryBlock, Lost Remote) but I thought I’d provide some color from the standpoint of a founder whose company, Newsvine, was acquired almost two years ago by the same company.

First let me say that the acquisition of EveryBlock is an excellent fit for both companies. Msnbc.com’s focus has always been on national news, a concentration that has made them the most visited news site in the United States for over a year now; more than CNN, more than Yahoo News, and more than most local news sites combined. Leading the national news race is a great accomplishment to anchor your company around, but local news is where most of the disruption is occurring these days, and thus it is fertile ground for innovation. Local newspapers find themselves rich with great journalism, but crippled by legacy distribution and operational costs. Community news blogs enjoy tremendous grassroots energy but very little means to monetize their content. There are a million gusts swirling around in the local news tornado right now, and when the dust finally settles, the landscape will be much different than anyone could have imagined even five years ago.

The organizations that succeed in local news will be the ones who respect all of the great journalism and increasingly available data in cities and neighborhoods across the world while creating better ways for people to consume it. If you’re a organization in the local news space — big or small — and you’d like to be a partner in this future, we’d love to work with you.

Another reason I’m excited to welcome EveryBlock into the family is that I think it’s a great family to join if you’re an entrepreneur. When we signed on with msnbc.com almost two years, it was a leap of faith considering that other suitors would have provided different experiences. We knew msnbc.com was the closest to us geographically, so that part couldn’t have been matched, but you never know how you’ll be respected, used, or abused until you’re part of the family. When I read about incredibly smart and likable people like Joshua Schachter selling a great service like Del.icio.us to Yahoo, only to see Yahoo marginalize the product and send Josh fleeing the company like a burning building, it saddens me.

In addition to things going horribly wrong between acquirers and entrepreneurs, a perhaps even more common case is when entrepreneurs leave on good terms the day their contract period is up. For background, when you sell your company, you are usually required to stick around for some period of time until you receive all of the acquisition proceeds. This happens all the time, the most recent of which (that I can recall) being Dick Costolo at Feedburner. Dick’s a great guy, he sold a great service in Feedburner to Google, but he left more or less when his contract was over. There’s nothing wrong with this all… he made a truckload of money and probably wants to blow some of it on gold chains and petrified walrus testicles.

I think when you’re an acquirer though, your real hope is that the employees you are welcoming into the family *want* to work for you after they no longer have to… and that is the situation we find ourselves in right now.

Things, for the most part, are going swimmingly. Although building technologies and services for msnbc.com has slowed our development efforts on newsvine.com a bit, for the time being, Newsvine now serves over 4 million uniques a month; almost four times the traffic we did, pre-acquisition. We’re also distributing more revenue to our great community of writers than ever before. Additionally, there has been some nice cross-media collaboration in the form of Newsvine members appearing on national television and gaining press access the political conventions in 2008. We also have people like Retired Colonel Jack Jacobs and NBC Correspondent Chuck Todd popping in to write articles and answer questions during important events. All of this and we feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.

There’s plenty of unfinished business to do when it comes to building out the Newsvine, msnbc.com, and now EveryBlock communities, and we’re just thrilled to be around to do it. I look forward to working closely with the EveryBlock team in the coming months and welcoming another passionate group of people into the company.