MSNBC.com‘s purchase of EveryBlock, the hyperlocal data gatherer, is seen internally as an important piece of the puzzle in building out local content and services. It is likely to herald in a revived focus on local by MSNBC.com, which remains a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC and is headquartered in Seattle (the cable network is entirely run by NBC out of New Jersey).
MSNBC.com’s assessment of local is that “the game has changed a lot,” says Dan Mucha, VP of finance and corporate development. “We are interested in being a constructive participant in the local news ecosystem, adding value by providing data. We want to partner with local incumbents [papers, TV stations and other media sources], rather than try to dominate the space.”
MSNBC.com, of course, has made several attempts to make local work during its 13-year history. Most focused on local offerings from NBC affiliates that didn’t go much beyond headlines. But with EveryBlock, MSNBC.com will be positioned to gather content throughout the Web on a block-by-block, metro and regional basis. “It is a scalable solution across the country and avoids the scenario of individual markets,” says Mucha.
Mucha adds that for MSNBC.com, local doesn’t live in a vacuum, either. “We’re interested in what we can do with the data,” he says. “For a national crime story, we can see where we are located,” maybe using local sources such as Seattle Times data.
He also envisions making EveryBlock data available to various MSNBC partners, which include The Washington Post and several European companies. NBC affiliates might also be involved. They currently provide a lot of video and blogs to MSNBC.com.
But Mucha emphasizes that while NBC has dramatically stepped up its local activities, it operates with an independent business plan that MSNBC isn’t directly involved with. Microsoft and MSN may also likely work with EveryBlock, although more on a partner basis rather than as owners.
Mostly, however, Mucha expects the company wants to act as a facilitator so that Everyblock founder Adrian Holovaty and his team can “execute on the product plan,” and win breakthroughs. He notes that the company has been engaged in a variety of hot topic areas, such as mobile and personalization.