Data Is Journalism: MSNBC.com Acquires Everyblock

everyblock logo

Everyblock, Adrian Holovaty’s local data aggregator, has been acquired by MSNBC.com. Many are hailing it as local news acquisition. For 15 major US cities Everyblock aggregates crime data, restaurant reviews, health inspections, local news and more. This is data that is only of interest to people within a certain area. I care much less about crime ten blocks away than I do about crime two blocks away. Everyblock lets me know what is happening within three blocks of my home and filters everything out (on the web and iPhone). So Everyblock is a hyperlocalnews acquisition, but that is only half of the story (maybe less).

The future of news is data and Everyblock is the premier startup in this area. As Adrian phrased it on his site this past May in a post entitled The definitive, two-part answer to “is data journalism?”:

It’s a hot topic among journalists right now: Is data journalism? Is it journalism to publish a raw database? Here, at last, is the definitive, two-part answer:

1. Who cares?

2. I hope my competitors waste their time arguing about this as long as possible.

MSNBC.com stopped wasting time just in time.

everyblock data snapshot

There is a coming deluge of data from the new administration. Sites like Data.gov, USASpending.gov and Recovery.gov are hopefully just the beginning of new data sources. It’s already too much for many organizations to make sense of. Without the proper tools many stories will never be covered. People will not get the info they need. Everyblock has proven that by taking free local government data sources and making them readily available to interested citizens you can create value. Now it’s time to turn those tools and thinking onto a problem of a national scale. (If you’d like to learn more about the Obama administrations efforts to release data check out Anil Dash’s latest piece The Most Interesting New Tech Startup of 2009.)

It’s important to note that Everyblock recently open-sourced the code to their site and as Techcrunch pointed out their traffic is not that high. So MSNBC could have easily duplicated Everyblock and just turned their traffic hose at the new property. Instead MSNBC.com realized that they are facing a new problem and they needed a new team to tackle it head on. Enter Adrian and Everyblock.

Of course many people know Adrian as one of the co-creators of DJango. In his acquisition blog post he states that he will have more time to work on Django, that Everyblock will stay Python (and presumably continue to roll their own maps) and that this does not effect ebcode, the open-sourced version of Everyblock (Radar post).

Congrats Adrian it looks like you solved the dilemma (Radar site) of what to do once you’ve open-sourced your site; you tackle a bigger problem.

Post updated to reflect that it was MSNBC.com, not MSNBC, that bought Everyblock.

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  • Abe

    MSNBC isn’t buying EveryBlock, but msnbc.com is. Separate company, separate editors, on a different coast. (Confusingly similar name.)

  • http://highearthorbit.com Andrew Turner

    Data alone isn’t Journalism – it’s the insight, and analysis that is shared from open data, and the ability for anyone to investigate, and reanalyze the data with additional insight or disparate data sources.

    What makes a tool like EveryBlock particulary powerful is the approachability of the deluge of information – the ability to use geography, category, and context to filter through and find the relevant pieces that affect an individual’s life that is meaningful.

  • http://www.loggershop.co.uk Steven @ Data loggers

    There can be a tremendous amount of raw data from an event or situation, and it is the skill of a good journalist to act as a data processor to organize and present this information so that it will both entertain and interest readers.