Local News Site Hoodline Acquired By Nextdoor
An interesting development has hit the San Francisco news scene, and it’s great if you prefer your news to be aggregated by robots, but troublesome if you want genuine, fact-checked news from human journalists. BrokeAssStuart.com has learned that the popular local new site Hoodline has been acquired by the neighborhood complainy-pants clearinghouse site Nextdoor.
We learned this because the information has been sitting there plain as day at the very bottom on Hoodline’s website, which now says “Hoodline, a Nextdoor Company”
— HIVE (@HIVEVentures) December 9, 2019
The acquisition apparently happened in August or September of last year, though curiously, was not announced very publicly. Several Hoodline employees quietly switched their LinkedIn affiliations to Nextdoor in August and September 2019. We do now see that Hoodline’s Twitter bio describes them as “A @nextdoor company,” and the acquisition was acknowledged two weeks ago in a Digiday article entitled How Nextdoor is pitching advertisers. (It’s about halfway down in the article). The news was also caught by the sharp-eyed folks at Eater SF who acknowledge it in the bullet points at the bottom of a Feb. 28 news roundup.
— double (@cdouble2073) February 29, 2020
Broke-Ass Stuart reached out to both Nextdoor and Hoodline for comment. “We don’t have any further info to share at this time,” a Nextdoor representative said.
Old timers will remember that Hoodline started out in 2010 as a site called Haighteration, which covered the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. We were huge fans! The site spawned a couple other SF neighborhood blogs, which then all came together in 2013 under one umbrella as Hoodline. But not long after Hoodline was acquired in 2016 by something called Ripple News, the site got a $10 million infusion of venture capital. Rather than hiring more journalists, they laid writers off and replaced them with robots, or rather, algorithms produced by data scientists and engineers to “automate local news.”
The Broke-Ass Stuart weekly column in the San Francisco Examiner discussed this data-aggregation bot journalism last year. “Their algorithms analyze the data, plug their findings into a template made by a human, and then an article gets created that along the lines of ‘The 5 Most Popular Movies in San Francisco this Weekend’ or ‘Where to Eat Now in Oakland’,” Stuart wrote at the time. “It’s basically AI taking big data and playing Madlibs.”
There are still a tiny handful of human writers at Hoodline, and they have broken some great stories lately. We do hope that people keep reading and sharing Hoodline stories — the ones with the human names and faces in the byline. The ones that do not have a human face, and discreetly at the bottom say, “This story was created automatically using local business data,” well, those are probably about as trustworthy as random complaints on Nextdoor.