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MSNBC acquires local news start-up EveryBlock

MSNBC Interactive News has acquired a small start-up called EveryBlock to help it attract more local news readers.

MSNBC Interactive News, a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC Universal, announced Monday that it has acquired EveryBlock, a start-up that provides hyperlocal news down to the block level. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

EveryBlock received its funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It also won that organization's Knight News Challenge, which awards start-ups that have the most innovative media ideas. When it won that award in 2007, the Knight Foundation required EveryBlock to make its code freely available to the public. Its code is available now on the company's site. MSNBC didn't say if it plans to remove the code or keep the site open source.

MSNBC said in a statement that EveryBlock will stay an independent brand with its own site. The company also said it plans to use its "resources to turn EveryBlock from a cool, useful service into something much bigger." MSNBC didn't elaborate on what it has planned.

EveryBlock's service allows users to input their address or ZIP code to see local news coverage, blog entries, and other information. It might have caught MSNBC's attention after AOL announced earlier this year that it had acquired a competing service, Patch.com. Both sites provide hyperlocal news that they gather from the local community. It's a cost-effective approach with a good chance of generating a positive return.

So far, EveryBlock is available to residents living in Atlanta, Boston, New York, San Francisco, and a handful of other major metro areas. MSNBC didn't say if it plans to expand its coverage, but if I had to guess, I'd say there's a good chance of that happening.