Not so long ago, there were hardly any real options for New Yorkers looking for a dose of local news. And when we say local, we're not referring to stories affecting the New York metropolitan area – which covers almost 20 million residents – but to neighborhood news, which, ironically, was once more difficult to source in New York than anywhere else, due to the sheer size of the population.
While cities like Pensacola, Florida and Dubuque, Iowa had their own local TV network affiliates that could report the latest street-cleaning rules, ballfield dedication, or local community board meeting on their daily news broadcasts, the New York media stations had the responsibility of covering not only the city proper, but also the five largest cities in New Jersey, as well as much of Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
That left little room for more localized coverage of "smaller" stories. Radio news broadcasts in New York reflected much the same issue, so it was up to local newspapers to fill the gaps, with larger city papers offering more in-depth coverage and neighborhood weeklies delving into the even smaller details.
When Time Warner Cable introduced its 24-hour NY1 TV channel in 1992, the goal was to focus exclusively on city happenings, and the 24/7 format brought more news reflecting the local flavors of the five boroughs. The station became a favorite among city dwellers almost immediately and still thrives to this day.
The advent of the Internet eventually filled the holes in local NYC news coverage, with everything from blogs to online versions of local neighborhood periodicals soon cropping up to offer local coverage.
Now, a new app called Blockfeed aims to curate and organize that coverage in the most hyperlocal way possible — via each individual city block.
"Think of it like a magic newspaper that rearranges its front page to show the news near you," suggests the site's homepage.
Blockfeed geolocates local news based on a user's location, and directs to a third-party source for each article listed. After location, social activity is the next most important factor in prioritizing a listing, says the site's founder and CEO Phil Perkins:
"If an article is getting shared a lot on social media, its relevancy goes up. But one thing that's cool that we do is we actually normalize that kind of velocity against the publication itself — so we enable even small blogs to theoretically compete against your major publications, like your New York Daily News or your New York Times."
Perkins began in July with a soft launch on iOS and just added Android this month, with hopes to expand to other dense urban areas shortly.