Wednesday, January 23, 2008

EveryBlock runs circles around other HyperLocal sites after one day

EveryBlock, a local news site, launched today and poses an interesting question:
In dense, bustling cities like Chicago, New York and San Francisco, the number of daily media reports, government proceedings and local Internet conversations is staggering. Every day, a wealth of local information is created -- officials inspect restaurants, journalists cover fires and Web users post photographs -- but who has time to sort through all of that?

The answer, of course, should be journalists, but that type of super-focused, relevant-to-few beat reporting is a thing of the past. So the folks behind EveryBlock are hoping they can step in to fill the gap using, essentially, the entire Internet as an information-gathering vehicle. Can that type of relevant reporting be done using smart filters? It's too soon to tell, but if this collection of random events from a few block radius around my old home in Chicago is any indication, it's certainly going to become real competition for the ham-fisted "hyperlocal" attempts by the big newspapers.

For comparison, here's TribLocal's coverage of a south-suburban town. It's night and day: EveryBlock offers things that truly seem relevant--what crimes happened, what business licenses were applied for, who's running personal ads in my neighborhood--while TribLocal offers the same sort of "Andrew's cheerleaders take on the competition" pap that puts it more in competition with the local high school paper than something that supplies vital information.

The thing that's most interesting to me about the different approach EveryBlock is taking is that instead of relying on fresh user-generated content, as so much of the "hyperlocal" advocates advise, the site takes exactly the opposite approach: Reprinting and repurposing information from sites as diverse as city departments, Craigslist, Flickr, the department of transportation, and good ol' newspapers. Don't make people come to you with content, the EveryBlock concept says, go to where they're already making it and present it in new ways. It's not a new idea, but those are often the best ones.