This story was written by Staci D. Kramer.
When the MSNBC acquisition of EveryBlock popped Monday, just about everyone—paidContent included—quickly added “hyperlocal” as the key description. But it’s a term founder and new MSNBC employee Adrian Holovaty has actively disavowed in the past—and one the MSNBC announcement avoided, opting instead for “innovative local site” that “goes to the block level.” Yes, that does sound pretty hyperlocal so why wouldn’t it be? Here’s Holovaty’s explanation from Dec. 4, 2008 about why he prefers “microlocal” (In a nice twist, he was explaining why EveryBlock and the Washington Post’s Loudoun Extra don’t belong in the same category; the same day the EveryBlock sale went public, WaPo admitted it is closing the hyperlocal site in September.):
“At EveryBlock, we don’t use the term ‘hyperlocal’ to refer to our site, because, frankly, it sells our site short. There’s a profound difference between something like the Washington Post’s Loudoun Extra deemed ‘hyperlocal’ because it covers only a single, 521-square-mile county (!) instead of the entire Washington, DC, metro area and EveryBlock DC, which provides a distinct page of news for every city block in the city of Washington.
That’s in no way a slight against Loudoun Extra; it’s a solid site that I’m sure I would find useful if I lived in Loudoun County, Virginia. I’m just saying county-level news and address-level news are fundamentally different products and stretching the term ‘hyperlocal’ to fit both is more confusing than helpful.
So that’s why we shy away from calling EveryBlock ‘hyperlocal.’ But people love their buzz words, and I do appreciate the value in being able to communicate a concept in as few words as possible—particularly because our brand of local news is the first of its kind and can be tricky to explain. That’s why we’ve started calling EveryBlock something else: Microlocal.”
How did Holovaty, who lived in Chicago when he worked for washingtonpost.com, define “microlocal”? “Micro implies intense focus, incredibly small scale and rich depth all of which describe EveryBlock’s general take on things. Best of all, people I’ve talked to seem to understand the term implicitly, as isn’t the case with the much more vague ‘hyperlocal.’”
Does it matter? Not nearly as much as the definition of success. No matter what you call any of the drill-down news projects, what will really matter is whether they make money (beyond being acquired), gain or keep readers, deliver for advertisers, become an intrinsic party of users’ lives and really change the face of journalism, not just the dictionary.
By Staci D. Kramer