I was at the Topix.net booth tonight on the exhibit hall floor of SES talking to Chris Tolles and Mike Markson about Topix and the newspaper industry. Topix is owned by KRD, Gannett and Tribune. In addition to a relatively recent redesign (very nice), Topix has developed some interesting local-community features (see "forum activity" map, upper right). Here’s a story on Ford cutting jobs and the related comments, for example.
I said to Chris, "Why don’t the newspapers just add the entire Topix site/feed to their sites? It’s better than adding a feed reader," which would have been one of the bullets in the previous entry but for my encounter with Topix this evening.
Local newspaper content could be presented in a primary position and then Topix site and news content could be imported/framed within the local newspaper "look and feel." Admittedly integration might present some issues, but it’s clearly doable. And almost instantly these local newspaper sites would be very competitive with Google and Yahoo! news. They would become aggregators themselves (offering a feed reader would do the same but RSS is still too complex for the mainstream).
The community content (comments) that Topix has is gold — wouldn’t the newspapers love to have that kind of participation on their sites? That could be added from Topix as well. Once people saw the comments that Topix has already compiled, they would likely be inclined to participate and comment themselves. This overcomes the chicken-and-egg problem of new community sites if the newspapers were to add this functionality tabula rasa.
That community content, once on the newspaper site, would also help jump-start local community participation in other areas across the newspaper site. This is huge, although my description of what I’m suggesting may not be entirely clear. Feel free to drop me an e-mail to discuss.
Why aren’t the newspapers exploiting Topix’s assets?