Trio Tosses $15 Million To Topix.net

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The news aggregator owned by the three major US newspaper publishers accepted another chunk of cash in funding for its operations.

In March 2005, Topix.net announced Gannett, Tribune, and Knight Ridder had jointly acquired 75 percent of the site. The ownership percentages shifted a little when McClatchy purchased Knight Ridder, but the trio retained their hold on Topix.

Those publishers have made an additional investment in the news search site, placing another $15 million in its coffers, Topix.net announced today. The four-year old Topix has not received the huge buzz online when it comes to news sites, especially when compared to a much-discussed deal where Wired parent Cond Nast bought Reddit in early November.

Tribune Interactive president Tim Landon said in a statement Topix.net “has not only delivered consistent audience growth, but has also created unique and innovative ways to keep consumers coming back for news, comments and community.”

Such stickiness will be important to newspapers, who want to turn those visitors into advertising gold. For routinely cash-strapped news publishers to follow up a multi-million dollar deal from last year with Topix by adding more cash, they must see the news aggregator as a key to their online fortunes.

I asked Topix.net VP of Sales & Marketing Chris Tolles where they plan to spend the money. Marketing to build awareness definitely made the list. “Products, People, Promotion,” he said. Infrastructure looks like a focal point as well.

“We’ve got a search that goers back a year, scalable technology to have forums that can handle 150,000 comments without breaking a sweat, and crawl 50,000 sites hourly, and auto tag all of the results, prior to enabling people to comment on every thing on the site….Takes some money,” said Tolles.

The investment looks like a wise decision by the publishing triumvirate. I talked to Hitwise US analyst LeeAnn Prescott about Topix.net, and how it has been faring against the websites they track in the News & Media category.

“For the week ending November 4th, Topix.net placed 22nd in the News & Media category,” Prescott said. “From September to October, their traffic increased ten percent.”

Prescott noted how a lot of Southern states, like Kentucky, Arkansas, and the Carolinas, have been driving traffic to Topix. “It’s doing well in starting online communities” for places that have not had them, she said. Citing this usage, Prescott said “Topix, in a way, brought Web 2.0 to rural America.”

That traffic has brought Topix average session times by their users of around six minutes. This puts Topix on par with big names like the Los Angeles Times and other news sites. Over the past year, Topix has seen slow organic growth. “This means they aren’t buying their traffic,” said Prescott.

Tolles hinted at new features in the works from Topix. That’s something we will follow up on in the coming months.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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