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.

Like this entry? You can follow me on Twitter here, subscribe via email here, or get the RSS feed if that's how you roll.

6 Responses:

  1. Rex says:

    Sweet. Nice move.

  2. […] I have decided to add two new applications to my iPhone. The first is Foursquare and the second is Everyblock. Both are focused on leveraging ‘local’ content. MSNBC has recently acquired Everyblock. […]

  3. Tim says:

    I’m curious to know how a company without a revenue model, who also required by their original grant, had to open source their underlining technology … was able to justify a Purchase Price.

  4. Mike D. says:

    Hi Tim. Reasonable question. I wouldn’t say there isn’t a revenue model, as targeted local advertising is some of the most valuable advertising there is, but yes, the revenue is not significant at this point. As for the open source thing, it is our belief that some of the value is in the code that has already been written and open sourced, but most of the value moving forward is with the talented team who wrote the code to begin with.

  5. Tim says:

    @Mike D.

    Sounds like you had a say in the MSNBC acquistion of EveryBlock :)

  6. MSNBC surely has a number of strategies for leveraging the infrastructure that is EveryBlock, but the first thing that comes to mind is getting a toe-hold in the local newspaper market.

    MSNBC bought Newsvine a little while back. Take the Newsvine user-base (aka columnists) and provide them a tool for doing local “investigation” into their neighborhoods.

    You get a recipe for building a crowd-sourced local “newspaper” were the “reporters” are invested in talking about themselves and are constantly fed new data about their immediate surroundings.

    And as Newsvine is vote-based news ranking service, the best local writing bubbles up (in theory) providing a more personal competitor to news wire services like the AP.

    Or did MSNBC just commandeer the ship to put the sailors into service making custom street map flyovers for Countdown?

Shared
Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away:

A great essay about how toxic everyday distractions can be.

Humanity's deep future:

A group of researchers at the Future of Humanity Institute talk about where our race may be going and how artificial intelligence could save or kill us all.

Steve Jobs speaks about the future at the International Design Conference in 1983:

31 years later, it’s safe to say this is one of the most prescient speeches about technology ever delivered. Jobs covers wireless networking, tablets, Google StreetView, Siri, and the App Store (among other things) many years before their proliferation. A fantastic listen.

How to travel around the world for a year:

Great advice for when you finally find the time.

LiveSurface:

A fantastic app for prototyping your design work onto real world objects like billboards, book covers, and coffee cups. This seems like just as great of a tool for people learning design as it does for experts.

50 problems in 50 days:

One man’s attempt to solve 50 problems in 50 days using only great design. Some good startup ideas in here…

How to Do Philosophy:

If you’ve ever suspected that most classical philosophy is a colossal waste of time, Paul Graham tells you why you’re probably right.

TIME: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us:

Stephen Brill follows the money to uncover the pinnacle of corruption that is the U.S. Health Care system. A must-read article if there ever was one.

DIY Dot Org:

A beautifully designed site full of fun and challenging DIY projects. I could spend months on here.

The Steve Jobs Video Archive:

A collection of over 250 Steve Jobs videos in biographical order

Self-portraits from an artist under the influence of 48 different psychoactive drug combos.

Water Wigs are pretty amazing.

David Pogue proposes to his girlfriend by creating a fake movie trailer about them and then getting a theater to play it before a real movie. Beautiful and totally awesome.

Jonah Peretti's letter to BuzzFeed’s employees:

If you’re wondering what a excellent blueprint for a modern media company looks like, look no further than Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti’s latest email to his employees. In it, Peretti explains a lot of his company’s virtues, the most important being a relentless focus on always providing what’s best for the user. Vox Media (operators of The Verge) is the only other company I can think of which approaches this level of reform and execution.

The Covers Project:

I love this so much: a cross-referenceable database of cover songs, searchable by song or artist. Slowed down, acoustic covers — no matter the song — are so enjoyable to me that I wish it was a requirement to play one at every show. If you like them as much as I do, make sure to check out M. Ward’s Let’s Dance or Sun Kil Moon’s entire album of Modest Mouse covers.