News websites are starting to see some competition on the local data front from niche players that do one thing very well. Witness SignalMap, which maps users’ reports of cellular reception, and CleanScores, a database of restaurant health inspections in L.A. and San Francisco (credit to Joe Murphy for pointing these out).
SignalMap is nationwide — its concept scales easily because doesn’t require any cooperation from local governments — but CleanScores has to ingest health data from umpteen jurisdictions if it wants to expand to every major market, which it says it intends to do. I see this as a challenge to local news organizations. We have the relationships and the local know-how to do this kind of thing better than anybody else. What we still lack, in many cases, is the technical sense and the will.