April 21, 2009

Topix becomes #1 news site of Gannett, Tribune & McClatchy Internet Portfolio

by tolles at 7:34 AM

In March of 2005, we received investment from the three largest newspaper companies in the US, Gannett, Tribune and Knight Ridder. Flash forward four years: In March 2009, we edged out USA TODAY to become their #1 media property at 6.5M unique visitors (comScore) with a focus on hyper local participation. Out of US newspaper sites, only the New York Times has more unique visitors.

News Site        Unique Visitors (000)

NYTimes.com                      10,942
Topix.com                          6,495
USA Today Sites                   5,960
WashingtonPost.com          5,829
LATimes.com                        5,173

Source: comScore, Media Metrix, March 2009

The folks I’ve worked with over the past four years are smart, savvy and realize where they stand. They wanted to make sure they had a stake in a news aggregator with Google having just launched Google news. A little while into their investment, we told them that news aggregation was a great start to a business, but it wasn’t very interesting, from either a traffic or a revenue standpoint. And that doubling down on hyper local news – especially where there currently wasn’t any – was the strategy we were going to pursue.

As Robert Scoble points out in his recent post, Topix and our pursuit of a model to deal with hyperlocal news, is one of the online efforts our newspaper investors have a stake in, and also that local is a pretty major part of the future of the news busienss

While we started out as a broad-based news aggregator, we noticed that what people wanted most was news about their town. So, we moved to augment our news with comments and stories from our visitors. And today it’s great to see that our strategy has paid traffic dividends, and being the #1 site with respect to unique visitors with company like the Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and USA TODAY is something we’re pretty proud of here at Topix.

There has been a lot of hue and cry about decisions made by the newspaper companies. Looking at the moves made by Gannett, Tribune and Knight Ridder (acquired by McClatchy), it is not like they did nothing. They created the #1 job site online, Careerbuilder, some of the largest classified sites online (cars.com. apartments.com, homegain, and the #1 local news site online – Topix). Despite what journalists think, with the decoupling of classified revenues, there is going to be a huge restructuring in the news business, and it’s going to be bloody. There’s really nothing that would have prevented most of what’s happening here.

Over the past four years, we have grown Topix with its roots in aggregation technology, to the place where people discuss the news and issues important to where the live and work. Embracing audience participation is for us the critical engine for content creation and traffic growth.

Local news is not a search problem, it’s a community opportunity.

There’s still a lot of work to do here, but it feels good to tell my board that we are their #1 most visited site.