Hyperlocal journalism took two big hits this week.
First, NBC closed EveryBlock, a pioneer in the emerging field of data journalism that started with $1.1 million in funding from the Knight Foundation in 2007 before being acquired by msnbc.com in 2009. Everyblock was innovative in bring highly community data-driven, with open data and custom maps. The original open-source code is actually still available. I don’t have the facts to know if EveryBlock can truly be viewed as a failed experiment in hyperlocal journalism, or if fell victim to the legacy of the General Electric cost-cutting knife, as new management at NBC, the former GE subsidiary, gained control of the site last summer.
And, second, AOL admitted what most observers expected, which is that its hyperlocal news network Patch will miss its ambitious revenue prediction of as much as $50 million in 2012 revenue, with only $34 million in 2012 revenue. AOL reportedly lost $100 million on Patch in 2011, a number which they denied. And so the cost cutting axe will be falling on Patch since AOL CEO Tim Armstrong is committed to bring Patch to profitability by the fourth quarter of 2013.
The right formula for sustainably profitable hyperlocal journalism is still elusive. The search, however, is far from over.