In its first acquisition since buying Seattle’s Newsvine in 2007, Msnbc.com today announced that it bought Chicago-based news startup EveryBlock.
EveryBlock sifts through local public records and mixes them with geographic information to generate hyperlocal reports on crime and other activity in a specific area. Founder Adrian Holovaty, 28, left the Washington Post to start the company after receiving a $1.1 million Knight Foundation grant two years ago.
Holovaty had been exploring options for his six-person venture since the grant expired in July and began discussing a partnership with Msnbc.com, the online news joint venture of Microsoft and NBC. In the end Holovaty opted to sell, after Newsvine founder Mike Davidson assuaged his concerns about being acquired.
“He talked about how his startup culture hasn’t been affected that much,” Holovaty said.
The acquisition comes as Microsoft is putting renewed emphasis on content, particularly local news and information, to strengthen its Web properties, compete with Google and resume its pace now that the relationship with Yahoo is clarified.
That could lead to new partnerships with local news organizations and additional acquisitions, according to Charlie Tillinghast, Msnbc.com president. EveryBlock is a local play “that was more within our control, that was not built entirely on partnerships,” he said.
Msnbc.com plans to let EveryBlock continue developing its technology and services, which are now available in 15 cities. It’s also going to explore ways to apply the technology to non-local purposes, and may eventually offer EveryBlock services to other news organizations, Tillinghast said.
Some news organizations are building data-culling services similar EveryBlock but Msnbc.com is “pretty confident in the skills of EveryBlock to stay ahead of that,” Tillinghast said.
EveryBlock will remain based in Chicago. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed.