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EveryBlock: A New Model for Local News?

Most Mondays, we're confronted with another barrage of bad news for the newspaper industry, but not today. Nielsen Online is out with a new report that eight of the ten largest newspaper websites are showing double-digit growth in traffic.

But, first, to one of the most exciting online experiments I've seen in action for quite a while.

One of the questions hanging over all newspaper sites is how to preserve local news in this time of rapid change. The Chicago Sun-Times has partnered with EveryBlock.com, which allows users to find out about everything from new building permits to crime reports by pinpointing addresses.

EveryBlock pitches itself as a "geographic filter" that provides a "news feed" for your neighborhood, eventually, perhaps your block. The service provides public records from government databases, news articles from multiple sources, plus blog entries, Flickr photos, Craigslist entries, and user reviews of local businesses via Yelp.

It's still at a relatively early state of development, but in my view EveryBlock has enormous potential. So far it covers five cities: besides Chicago, it can be used in New York, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and San Francisco.

A few other attempts have been made to provide blog content or Flickr photos by zip code, but this is the first effort I've seen that integrates public records with professional news reports and user-generated content. Website editors listen up! This one deserves your consideration.

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Back to the good traffic report.

The Wall Street Journal grew its uniques by a torrid 94 percent for the year ending in July 2008. The New York Daily News and the Los Angeles Times recorded 66 percent growth; the Atlanta Journal-Constitution grew by 64 percent. The New York Times was up 38 percent; the New York Post and SFGate were both up by 25 percent, and Boston.com posted a 21 percent gain.

Only two of the top ten failed to grow their traffic -- USA Today and the Washington Post. Both sites lost two percent of their audience.