But last week OpenGovChicago created a unique opportunity for developers, local news lovers, and open data folks: the chance to speak directly with the Comcast executives in charge of bringing EveryBlock back.
The event generated plenty of interest in Chicago, the city that gave birth to Everyblock and is a recognized leader in open data.
In large part the event provided a forum for EveryBlock and community members to begin a dialogue about the site and its use as a news source and community resource. A few surprises emerged:
- “There’s still not a business model in hyperlocal.” Comcast’s Matt Summy, regional vice president of external and government affairs, reiterated throughout the meeting that the company doesn’t have a plan to make Everyblock profitable. The plan is to create a the best tool possible and integrate it as deeply as possible in to communities around Chicago and see what comes of it, Summy said.
- Chicago is the only market for EveryBlock. Given the lack of a business model, EveryBlock is a single city site. If Comcast finds a way to make the site sustainable here, it’ll go to other cities, Summy said.
- Widgets are back. The EveryBlock widgets many local sites used to keep readers up to date on events, crime and restaurant inspections are again available.
- EveryBlock has teamed up with WordPress. For now the collaboration seems to extend only to WordPress plugins for EveryBlock widgets, but the presenters made a bit of a show about the collaboration so it’ll be interesting to see if anything else comes of it.
- EveryBlock isn’t that big. In EveryBlock’s biggest market (Chicago) the site had about 1 million pageviews each month generated by an “active user” group of about 40,000, said Paul Wright, Comcast local media director.
- People love EveryBlock. The number of people with strong opinions about the site and its role in communities surprised me. Yes, there was a bunch of Twitter outrage last year when it was shut, but it’s easy to be outraged when all you have to do is post a tweet. It’s another to put on your boots and coat, get on a bus, and suffer through a single digit Chicago night to learn more about a website. Chicago’s EveryBlock users are a dedicated bunch.
If you want to learn more, check out the Google Doc with fairly complete notes of the discussion. Glad to have you back EveryBlock!