September 12, 2013

Topix at the White House: Innovating to Improve Disaster Response and Recovery

by sara at 12:44 PM

Recently Topix CEO Chris Tolles and Director of Business Development Schuyler Hudak were invited to the White House to attend a technology summit on Federal Disaster Response, with Todd Park, US Chief Technology Officer, and Craig Fugate, FEMA Administrator.

The goal of the event was to lay the foundation and establish commitments from participants to integrate before, during, and after disasters. FEMA has made it a priority to build partnerships with communities, industry, and innovators from all sectors to aide in improving disaster response on the federal level. Their work was evident for Hurricane Sandy and the Oklahoma Tornado survivors.

Over 80 innovators from the tech, art, public, non-profit, and private sector communities gathered to think about ways to improve the disaster survivor experience. These thought leaders brainstormed several innovative solutions to address these challenges.

Topix CEO Chris Tolles called our engineering team back in Palo Alto and had them put together a news feed tailored specifically for news about a given disaster. The feed went live before the meeting was over and you can find it here on the White House website!

At Topix we care about community. When disaster strikes, it requires a community coming together to respond collectively. We have started thinking about how we can leverage our communities across the country to respond more effectively to disasters. Above all, we hope that our users will find innovative ways to leverage the tools Topix puts in your hands to come together as a community. 

Today's Politix blog post comes from Schuyler Hudak, Director of Business Development for Politix and Topix.

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June 25, 2013

Politix Celebrates Innovation and Civic Engagement

by sara at 12:51 PM

Politix had the pleasure of hosting an event at The Newseum in Washington DC that aimed to bring political operatives, public servants and press together with the tech and innovation community. The goal was to encourage more collaboration from the different sectors in creating new and channels for civic engagement.

This event brought together partners like CausesTechNetPopVoxRyotTRAIL, and BlastRoots. All of these companies and organizations are working to use technology to make civic engagement more user-friendly and make a difference in our world. Our event was a great way to promote more dialogue between DC politicos and Silicon Valley innovators.

At Politix, we believe in partnerships. Right now there are startups in Silicon Valley that want to increase civic engagement. Simultaneously, there are lawmakers that want better tools to more efficiently serve their constituents. We believe that tech can be used to increase conversation and engagement about our political world, so we launched our product a little over a year ago to do just that. This event was a great way to introduce Politix to an even larger audience.

The event was a huge success with over 300 people attending. But the real success was getting Washington DC folks and people from the tech sector who are trying to make the world a better place talking and forging working relationships. 

Today's Politix blog post comes from Schuyler Hudak, Director of Business Development for Politix and Topix.

March 8, 2013

Happy Birthday, Politix!

by sara at 2:14 PM

Today we celebrate the one year anniversary of Politix. And what a year it's been. 

Politix launched in early 2012 as your hub to keep up with political news, interact with others, and make your opinions known about issues that are important to you. People caught on fast and jumped right in, and by the time the 2012 election season rolled around things had really kicked into high gear with record traffic, signups, and site interactions.

And we haven't had a break since. As Anthony Ha noted in his recent TechCrunch article, "Community Site Topix Sees 40 Percent Year-Over-Year Traffic Growth As Political Focus Pays Off", traffic on Politix and Topix is still growing rapidly since the election season ended in November:
Topix, a site for locally focused online discussion that first launched in 2004, has seen significant traffic growth in the past year. According to CEO Chris Tolles, that's because of the big bet that the site made on political coverage and discussion. Traffic grew 40 percent between December 2011 and December 2012, the company says, and there were 12.4 million unique visitors in January. Those visitors are spending an average of 11.5 minutes on the site each month, and a lot of that activity is coming from smartphones -- in fact, the company says that more than half of its traffic is mobile. Back in 2011, Tolles was already telling me that political content was driving the site's traffic growth, and that he was trying to find the right product and content strategy to take advantage of that interest. That ultimately resulted in the launch of politics-focused sub-site Politix, where users can share political articles, fill out polls, and comment on the news without being (in Tolles' words) "that guy on Facebook" who's always annoying his friends with political commentary.

So what have we been up to here at Politix HQ since launch? Take a look at some highlights:

New Apps 
We built a full suite of mobile apps so you can keep your political news in your pocket. Have you downloaded them yet? Check out the Politix apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android. 

New People
David Mark came on board from Politico as Politix Editor-in-chief in July 2012. Besides overseeing our crack staff of writers, he represents Politix by providing his political expertise in interviews and appearances on dozens of radio, TV, and news shows and sites including The Sean Hannity Show, CBS News, NBC Bay Area, and The Daily Beast. He's also working to build a growing stable of expert guest contributors, offering insightful Op-Ed posts to supplement our daily flurry of in-house Politix articles.

New Features 
At launch, Politix offered users a way to participate via Debate Maps and article commentary. You wanted more, and over the last year we've been busy building additional interactive features, including quizzes, mini polls, and forums

And you've sure been busy using 'em! Let's look at some numbers:

  • 3869 articles written
  • 270,140 comments made
  • 209,935 debate map and mini poll votes cast
  • 39,124 quizzes taken
  • 4,328 late night cans of Red Bull consumed by the Politix team (Our tireless Senior Editor Mary Noble may be responsible for 89.7% of those cans... )
But we're not done yet. We've got plenty of tricks up our sleeves planned for year two, and we can't wait to show you what's next.

Happy Birthday, Politix. Our baby's growing up!      
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August 3, 2012

Chris' Interview with IdeaMensch

by Raena at 7:10 AM

IdeaMensch, a site providing interviews with entrepreneurs bringing ideas to life, caught up with our CEO Chris Tolles for an interview. Chris answers questions ranging from how the idea for Politix was born to his three favorite online tools to the most important thing to pick in a job. Check out the full interview on IdeaMensch:

July 16, 2012

New Politix Editor-in-Chief

by tolles at 9:00 AM

We've just hired David Mark from Politico to be our Editor-in-Chief of Politix! David was running The Arena section at Politico, and now he'll be leading our editorial team, helping write and edit, as well as reaching out to contributors and thought leaders to build out the community.

I'm happy to have David on board for several reasons:

  • For the product: At Politix we're building a new community where everyone - everyday aspirational folks all the way up to members of Congress - can meet in a marketplace of ideas, take their stand and make their point. David's experience at Politico's Arena is key, because like Politix, The Arena isn't simply a set of news stories - it's a place where the news is transformed into fuel for discussion and debate. Our concept of "endorsing" someone's viewpoint on an issue fits in well with having the kinds of contributors David fostered at The Arena weigh in with their opinions and points of view.  While we are doing something pretty different with Politix, his understanding of how people respond and interact will be informing how we go forward.
  • On the inside: David adds the core DNA we need for Politix. Getting Politix to the next level is going to require a robust set of experiences that we didn't have here at Topix - until now. Notably, David's experience with Politico and AP bylines, not to mention time at the Congressional Quarterly and as editor-in-chief of Campaigns & Elections magazine. In spending a fair number of years pitching, and whining about, journalists, I believe there is a very strong cultural component to the editorial operation, and being able to build that out is an important part of his role.
  • To the outside:  We wanted someone who knew the players in the political industrial complex - and could speak to them as a peer.  Having someone who has actually been on the Daily Show to pitch his book, who is a frequent analyst in the media on politics, and who represents the editorial arm of our company is a huge win for us.
  • For the Team: We are extremely fortunate to have made a great first senior editorial hire with Mary Noble, who has successfully spearheaded the boot-up of a new editorial property: built up the editorial guidelines, writes much of the content, coordinates the existing writers, and oversees the editing.  We're doing great, and I'm confident we have quality editorial every day up on the site. Bringing someone on who could add to Mary's efforts, and help all of us succeed, was a tall order, but David is a great culture fit for us.

We're doing something new.

Our vision is to create a new community around participation with the issues we face as Americans.  I'm humbled that a guy who edits and runs a piece of the best political site on the web is willing to hitch his wagon on our star and come work with us.

Welcome, David.


Chris Tolles

CEO, Topix

Update:  Christina Farr covers the announcement on VentureBeat.

May 23, 2012

Introducing Politix

by tolles at 11:15 AM


I want to thank you for participating on Topix, and helping make us the largest local forum site and the best local news aggregator in the US. The issues and candidates around election time are always the biggest conversations on Topix, from the Presidential campaign down to the local city council races. So, we built a place where your views on the issues that matter to all of us can take center stage.

We're excited to be launching Politix at, where you can take a stand on the issues you care about, especially those around the 2012 election. Politix isn't about just reading the news, but about inspiring citizens to engage with politics by interacting with the news.

In this important election year, we provide you with a central place to share and express your political opinions online. Check out Politix today, and download our new iPhone app.

To celebrate our launch, we are giving away over $1000 in prizes just for participating.

We need your help to make Politix interesting! Your voice matters. Come join the conversation.

Thank you,
Chris Tolles
CEO Topix

December 21, 2011

Topix Forum Helps Educate Locals On Proposed School Merger

by jonathan at 2:10 PM

We are always happy to see people using Topix to discuss what matters most to them, especially when it involves civic issues and encourages people to become more involved in the democratic process.

Case in point, a Topix thread is giving the citizens of Herkimer, NY a forum to discuss a controversial school merger proposal. Though the school board has put forth great effort to hold town hall meetings and information sessions to raise awareness of the pending vote, the citizens of Herkimer have carried the debate online where everyone in town has equal chance to voice their opinion.

Though part of a larger grassroots effort involving Facebook groups and personal websites, the Topix thread serves as a prime example of how administrations as well as individuals can make use of local forums to educate and forward debate on a number of relevant issues.

For more information please read this article from the Herkimer Telegram:

Internet Plays Role As Residents Debate School Merger
Visit the Herkimer, NY forums

November 16, 2011

Hyperlocal Sites Set To Play An Important Role in the 2012 Elections

by jonathan at 3:40 PM

Topix CEO, Chris Tolles, took part in a recent Street Fight Summit panel discussion about the increasing relevance of hyperlocal content in political campaigns.

Chris spoke of how hyperlocal ad inventory becomes a very valuable commodity during election cycles, "It all of a sudden becomes a place where there's a lot more inventory -- the folks who are buying it are looking for good places for it, so those of us in publishing-land have the opportunity to try to create a good home for that." 

Others discussed how politicians have the unique opportunity to leverage hyperlocal content to speak directly to their constituents.  The effect of which could have demonstrable impact on swing voters in smaller communities.

You can view the discussion in its entirety here:

November 1, 2011

Research Shows Big Link Between Commenting Online & Voting

by tolles at 5:29 PM

We commissioned Equation Research to do a survey of over 1,000 people regarding the link between voting and online commenting behaviors, and the results were really interesting.

The research found an increasing number of citizens turning to each other (versus one-to-many sources such as traditional news outlets and candidate-driven leaflets, etc.) for guidance on key issues.  Research uncovered voters using the Internet as their preferred venue for this exchange of ideas. Specifically, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of voters use the Internet as their primary source of information about candidates and political issues, second only to television (78 percent). Online news also ranked the most helpful political information source, with 89 percent of respondents calling it somewhat or extremely useful

Even more surprising, more than a quarter of voters (27 percent) participate in political discussions or debates online.

Other key findings include:

  • The primary reason voters participate in online political discussions is that participants dissect issues in greater depth than traditional media (81 percent of those active online somewhat or completely agreed).
  • Over half of all respondents agreed online discussions provide an array of opinions, not just extreme sides. This number jumped to 89 percent when asked of those who actively participate in online discussions.
  • 24 percent of voters agree somewhat or completely that online conversations drive their vote. Of those that participate in political debate online, 58 percent say the conversations drive their vote

The research also addressed political advertising. 68 percent of those active in political conversations online say they are more likely to pay attention to advertising on a site where they participate in political discussion and debate. Two out of five voters say they are more likely to see political advertising as credible if it is on a website that has both positive and negative commentary about the candidate.  And, 48 percent of voters ranked the Internet as the second most impactful advertising medium, second only to television (66 percent).

For the 2011 Politics Online Report, Topix and its partner Equation Research surveyed 1,008 U.S. residents, over 18 who vote in elections. The mean age of respondents was 44 with a mean income of $70,000 annually.

Here's an infographic of the results (click on it for a human readable version :-)

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Topix-Online-Politics-Infographic-rev4.png

And a great writeup by Read Write Web of this and other information from Digitas:

October 5, 2011

Politicians Take Note: Women Are Attracted To News Aggregators

by jonathan at 1:35 PM

A recent study shows that top news sites are attracting a large female audience. According to the report Topix has the largest percentage of women readers of all the news aggregators as they make up 56.2% of our overall audience.  

These stats should be of particular interest to politicians who are increasingly trying to find ways of garnering the female vote. Luckily Topix provides a perfect venue for candidates to speak directly to their constituents and potential voters have equal footing to engage in the conversation.

View the results of the study here:

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