Takes on Topix

Had lunch last week with Topix guys Rich Skrenta and Chris Tolles at their beautiful Palo Alto offices (like, above the trophy shop). The conversation ranged from work focus post-acquisition to the legal issues around packaging up feeds.
For those who are interested in learning more about this very nimble company, some info from the talk:

  • Topix.net is an active packager and redistributors of local content and news feeds, as well as a growing force in providing aggregated local news.
  • Topix has 150,000 topically based, micro-news pages and more than 2.8 MM unique users.
  • There are roughly 187,000 My Yahoo subscribers, 190,000 CitySearch subscribers, and 7,000 Bloglines subscribers reading their feeds.
  • More than 10,000 sources are spidered–to acquire and categorize the data, Topix spiders, aka indexes, sites on an indexing list and leaves behind aTopix.net URL in the log files that shows the site was crawled.
  • The robot spider is blockable if source wishes. If access is given, takes headlines and digest.
  • A URL is left behind showing the spider was there. The spider can be blocked with a simple command.
  • Over past 15 month of operations, only 4 sources have opted out.
  • 2,000 content entities have contacted Topix and requested inclusion in the crawl list.
  • Commercial distribution arrangements are in place with AOL, Ask Jeeves and Infospace, bundling headlines and digests of content and supplying them out.

Skrenta says that they want to become THE local home page for news around the US, as well as a major revenue driver for local advertising, but that they are also deeply involved with partner strategies (no surprise given they were just acquired by three newspapers).
Susan sez: It’s going to be very interesting to see how Topix.net development progresses, given that they are lean team (10 people) with three big parent companies that probably have a well-developed wish list already on the table.