The leading news community on the Web has recently executed a “re-invention” of their already successful website. Topix connects people to news and information in every town and city in the United States. People can catch the latest news in their own areas, and then see what’s going on in the town they’re planning a vacation in. In an interview with Webpronews at the Web 2.0 Expo, Topix Vice President of Marketing, Chris Tolles, spoke with us about what they like to call the “re-invention” of their site. Topix switched their domain name to Topix.com instead of Topix.net.
Previously, Topix allowed its users to access the news of any region of their interest and to comment and discuss it. The response was great. Over 1 million people posted more than 5 million comments, which totaled up to more than 30,000 comments each day. The majority of the traffic was from local channels. The only problem — there was still a lack of local news even with 50,000 news sources. The news that was there, was not able to be conformed enough with merely algorithms. As a result of these findings, Topix.com completely opened up their site in order to give any user the power to discuss, as well as edit and share the news of their choice.
Topix is unique in that, no one else has all the local content around news that they have. People in small towns especially enjoy the site, if their town does not receive a lot of coverage.Topix acquires around 10 million comments each month. According to Tolles, Topix considers themselves to be a standard body and not a journalists’ organization. They do not want to give any one person full authority over a specific region.
In the beginning, Topix founders created the first open development directory for the Internet called the Open Directory Project, but is now the largest human-edited web directory. Jimmy Wales, best known for his role in founding Wikipedia, was a first licensee of of the Open Directory. According to Tolles, Wales credits the Open Directory Project as the genesis behind the idea of Wikipedia. Tolles does point out that they borrowed the idea of logging and making public logs from Wikipedia.
According to Tolles, advertising has been a difficult issue for Topix. They currently only use Google, but will most likely begin to directly sell to specific advertisers. Topix.com does include a Classified Ad section on its site that is being monetized on Google. As they obtain more traffic, they will get more ads. According to Tolles, it’s a challenge to monetize locally, especially since everyone is not on the Web right now. They believe time is in their favor since the Internet is continuing to grow and flourish.