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Comcast personalizing local news with EveryBlock Philly relaunch

Comcast is providing Philadelphia?s mobile-savvy consumers with personalized local news and information by relaunching EveryBlock Philly, a hyper-local, free online service and mobile application that aggregates and curates content at the neighborhood level.

The service?s interactive, personalized news feed allows users to stay connected with neighbors, interact and share what is happening on their block, and discover content and information from around the city. The move reflects an effort to connect live news, one of the earliest forms of mobile-messaging content, with an audience that has grown increasingly sophisticated in its use of mobile devices.

?Comcast is a local company, serving customers in 39 states and Washington, D.C.,? said John Demming, Comcast?s executive director of corporate and financial communications. 

?We have strong commitment to the communities we serve and providing them with this hyper-local news and information is an example of that.?  

Community resource
Philadelphia-based Comcast, the world?s largest broadcasting and cable company by revenue, termed the service a community resource that would help Philadelphia residents, community-based organizations and elected officials communicate and share information.

NBC had operated EveryBlock from 2009 to 2013. Comcast, which purchased the service from NBCUniversal, has strived to equip with it with features that residents of neighborhoods will find useful.

The revamped service made its debut in Chicago early this year and will roll out to Denver, Houston, Medford, MA, Hialeah, FL and Fresno, CA in the coming months.

In the new version, users receive personalized information from more than 500 local sources, including news, reviews, events, blogs and other web content, including crime reports and 311 requests. User-generated questions and comments also have a home on the site. 

Up-to-the-minute information gets delivered based on users? custom location preferences where they can choose the content they want and see it by neighborhood or zip code, follow the blocks they live and work on, or even draw a custom location.

Any local blogger, publisher, or other organization interested in content from EveryBlock can use syndication tools at EveryBlock WidgetControl or a more custom integration based on the EveryBlock API.

Despite being seen as a bright spot for traditional journalism in the digital age, hyper-local news outlets have struggled to remain profitable.

AOL Inc. invested $100 million investment in its Patch network but eventually had to slash staff because of the difficulty of attracting advertisers. After losing at least $200 million, it sold a majority stake in the company  to the Hale Global investment firm. 

Owner and founder Charles Hale, has said that Patch is profitable under a new leadership team that includes its new editor in chief, Warren St. John, a former reporter at The New York Times.

EveryBlock application in action.

Initially, the idea was that hyper-local news outlets could stay in business through ad revenue from small local businesses. 

Attracting impressive advertisers has been possible because despite having cut its editorial and social media staff, the company says it has kept 85 percent of its traffic with 17 million unique views in April, the Times reported. The company also says the sites have 2.2 million followers on social media and two million subscribers to their daily newsletters.

Quick and easy

EveryBlock aggregates over 500 feeds, including RSS feeds and information from websites, bloggers, and user-generated content in local communities into one location for quick and easy access.

?EveryBlock is available to anyone, in the home and on the go,? Mr. Demming said. ?Consumers can view EveryBlock online via their PCs or on mobile devices.

?An app is currently available in the Apple App store and an Android app will be available in the coming weeks,? he said.

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter with Mobile Marketer, New York.