EveryBlock, the nifty neighborhood data provider, has redesigned its website and shifted its focus. In a post on EveryBlock’s blog, founder Adrian Holovaty says that the site will change from a “one-way funnel of information,” to a more collaborative enterprise that’s “about participation more than passive consumption.”
EveryBlock, now a unit of MSNBC.com, has always been a good resource for community-minded people (including hyperlocal editors). It aggregates tons of data that would otherwise take hours to compile, including crime reports, restaurant inspections and real estate listings. But its dry design and minimal apparent oversight made it the kind of place where you stopped by briefly without ever pausing to look around.
The redesign could help make EveryBlock more hospitable. The site looks a lot better now, and it’s more interactive. Basically, people can post comments and ideas on the site more easily now, send messages to their neighbors and “thank” neighbors for their additions, thereby establishing a kind of ranking system based on usefulness and credibility. Holovaty made it clear that he’s not building another social network (Thank God!) and merely wants to create a space where people can find others in their neighborhood with similar concerns.
But isn’t this new spruced-up EveryBlock actually competition for hyperlocal sites, many of which are trying to offer the same kind of community forum? Certainly, EveryBlock could take traffic from hyperlocal sites, particularly if people in the community don’t think they’re getting enough important local information from the sites. But in general, I think the more people have access to community information, the more likely they are to get involved and care about their community — meaning they are probably more likely to read their local websites. Also, EveryBlock drives traffic to local sites — if your site isn’t listed in their news section, get in touch with them. They’re generally happy to oblige.
I’m not sure how MSNBC.com expects to monetize EveryBlock, because its mission really sounds more philanthropic. But that’s their problem. In the meantime, hyperlocal editors can take advantage of EveryBlock’s tools to make their own reporting better.