Topix Reinvented As Hyperlocal News Portal

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The news aggregating site at Topix.net has a new complementary domain at Topix.com, and a renewed focus on the local audience that CEO Rich Skrenta thinks can be a difference maker for the site. Oh, and just call them Topix.

Topix looked a lot different this morning. Jarringly different. Instead of the usual gathering of news stories, I had a very local focus inviting me to read, discuss, and edit news for Lexington.

Letter to the editor of the local paper? Meh. I can be the editor on Topix and write my own letters. And publish them, where other people can comment and edit them. It’s a whole community cycle that dispenses with the century-old tradition of sending one’s mad rantings to the newspaper editor, who would either publish or dump them.

Topix was successful before the change. CEO Rich Skrenta said so on his Skrentablog in discussing the site, and why it had to change:

We took a hard look at ourselves at Topix last year. We had built up a strong local audience on the site, but a lot of it was SEO, and while users were clearly getting some value out of our product, we hadn’t made something that people really cared about. As cool a technical trick as our aggregated geolocalized news pages were, they actually pretty much sucked.

Making Topix into something people cared more about wasn’t going to be a quick trip to Clonesville to pick up a copy of Digg or MySpace, according to Skrenta. “I don’t believe that you can win by making a clone of something else,” he wrote.

Part of that change meant a $1 million domain change. As of now, Topix.com gets the love, while the long-running, familiar Topix.net will eventually slide into being a redirected URL, but not until the search engines pick up the dot com domain in a satisfactory manner. Skrenta may not be SEO’s biggest fan, but he seems to recognize its importance.

The official word at the Topix blog said people will be able to participate in the system just as Wikipedia editors do with that online encyclopedia. Anyone will be able to submit stories to Topix editors; if a locale does not have one, then the automated RoboBlogger will handle those duties.

About a hundred editors drawn from the ranks of Tribune, Gannett, and McClatchy journalists will edit and moderate the content arriving on Topix. That can even be remote content, a wise choice by Topix in an age when it seems like everyone has a cameraphone in a pocket; send it to the editors by emailing the story to zipcode@topix.com.

Topix Reinvented As Hyperlocal News Portal
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