26 December 2005


The new news service Topix.net, has rapidly become one of the largest referral sources to this blog. The service is organized like a newspaper, rather than a search engine, with hundreds of thousands of subject area news pages. It basically simply runs a smart search algorhythm on a regular basis for each page, uses the first sentence or so of the story and its title as a blurb, and puts link in place. I suspect that most pages are created by hand, using templates that are in some cases pretty customized, and in others (like geographic locations) very standardized.

I still get more traffic from Google searches and a few other blogs that link here, but it given that it has basically come out of nowhere in the past several weeks, it is notable. The business states that it was founded three years ago, but clearly hadn't hit the big time online until recently. It apparently went live in early 2004. The founders of this news service describe themselves in an About Us page.

The problems associated with cataloging the billions of pages available on the Internet are not new to the Topix.net team. Previously, several Topix.net founders created the Open Directory Project (originally called "NewHoo"), the first open development directory for the Internet, and now the largest human-edited web directory. This project is now a property of America Online and is the source from which many of the current web directories, including Google Directory, derive their information. While an open development solution is helpful, especially when it comes to an overall categorization of the various sites on the web, it does not address the one item that many users turn to the internet for: news. That is where Topix.net steps in.

The firm is closely held primarily as a partnership of three major newspaper companies. A press release in March of 2005 announced that:

Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI), Knight-Ridder, Inc. (NYSE: KRI) and Tribune Company (NYSE: TRB) jointly have acquired a 75 percent stake in Topix.net. Ownership is split evenly, with each media company owning 25 percent and the Topix.net founders retaining a 25 percent stake.

It has contracts with many other internet and news organizations. One of the big things that sets it apart from conventional MSM outlets (Is Topix.net MSM itself? It is owned by the MSM.), is its inclusion of many second tier MSM sources (like local papers) and most of the blogosphere in its search net.

I like it, especially for new coverage in niche areas, although really getting comfortable with it will take time as its particular personality quirks emerge.

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