EveryBlock is back, and it looks like it never left

Written By Sun-Times Wire Posted: 01/21/2014, 06:26pm

EveryBlock logoWhen EveryBlock returns Thursday, it won’t look like it aged a day.

In fact, Comcast, which owned the community news site when it was shut down a year ago, hopes users will be “underwhelmed” by the lack of design changes, says Paul Wright, director of local media development. Many of the site’s old features, like the popular email digest, will be back, he says.

Another thing that won’t change: EveryBlock’s plan to make money.

The final post in February from the “EveryBlock Team” said the site was folding because of “increasing challenges to building a profitable business.”

Comcast is “not sure yet” how to monetize the site and is exploring options, according to company spokesman Jack Segal. He says Comcast invests in the community and sees the site as an extension of those efforts.

“EveryBlock is an incredible asset,” Segal says. “There were tens and tens of thousands of users here in the market.”

Accordingly, Comcast is looking to work with the tech community and open data platforms to add more public data to the site, which will again compile hyperlocal information on crime, restaurant inspections, business licenses and building permits.

What’s new will be geotagging capabilities, expanded public news feeds, and more shareability through WordPress plug-ins and widgets, Wright says.

Some examples of how the new functions might work: An alderman could geotag information on his distribution list to share it with EveryBlock users in the ward. Or, an EveryBlock user could see information from a neighborhood group’s Facebook page even if that user isn’t on Facebook.

At its peak, EveryBlock covered neighborhood news in 19 cities. Thursday’s relaunch, which will begin in Chicago and eventually roll out elsewhere, is six years to the day since journalist and Web developer Adrian Holovaty founded EveryBlock here with a grant from the Knight Foundation.

“That’s a coincidence,” Wright says. “But we think it’s pretty cool.”