Topix has just struck a deal to run the forums of MediaNews Group in the US, which owns 61 newspapers including the Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News.
If Topix’s claim is genuine (and I have no reason to doubt it) that it gets over 80,000 comments a day – three million people posting more than 18 million comments since it launched its forums little under two years ago – then there seems to be obvious and compelling reasons for the union.
Marry what Topix does best with the local audience/trust that MediaNews papers have and you’re on to a winner surely?
In interview yesterday with Journalism.co.uk Yoosk consulting editor Nick Ryan said that traditional media was failing to shift from the old top-down approach online because it’s not getting involved nearly enough in user-interaction.
So all good with this move? Not all, according to Howard Owens:
“Media News signing a deal to turn over commenting functions to Topix is just dumb beyond belief
“Ironically, Media News owns the Denver Post, which of late has been doing a fantastic job of trying to become the hub of community conversation, both through its main news site and its innovative neighbours site.
“Those efforts are completely incompatible, as I see it, with the Topix business model, which Chris Tolles is quite blunt about: “We’re aiming to be the number one local news site on the web …”
“There can be only one number one, and if it’s Topix, it ain’t your newspaper.com.”
Owens adds that local should be a vertical, in the way fashion and travel are, and that the local paper should ‘own’ that space, dominating it across all platforms in a way other major brands dominate verticals, rather than letting another company get the best out of the paper’s good relationship with its audience.