Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Topix Takes News Giants Gannett, KR and Tribune as Parents: A Finger in the New Aggregation

As noted by AP and several majors the news portal has news majority parents today, with the combination of Gannett, Knight Ridder and the Tribune as parents. As noted in the announcement on their Web site Topix intends to remain an objective source for headlines from over 10,000 news sources but now able to take advantage of the extensive advertising and content assets available from its new parents. Why does that sound like a contradiction? Because it is, of course, but no mind, it's a sign that major papers are getting serious about playing in the emerging space for news aggregation that is rapidly crossing the boundaries of paper-bound editorial thinking. Today's news reader wants to get the right information from as many sources as possible in a convenient Web format, increasingly placing companies with editorial resources in the position of having to place their content in environments other than their "home sweet home" news portal to be effective in the eyes of their readers. Unlike traditional database-driven content aggregation services, though, in The New Aggregation providing an editorial context for news sources that meets the needs of individual readers is increasingly important. Major papers dragged on for far too long thinking that the combination of traditional aggregators and their own portals would cover the needs of their readers, but are now forced by the success of Google News, Topix and other on-the-fly headline aggregators to consider how they may be able to have their editorial and advertising resources play in this more open environment. Purchasing Topix gives major news outlet a compliant partner in this effort, but it's far from clear that this will result in a compelling news product in and of itself. Topix is only a starting point for an effort that will require a lot more development to develop "tomorrow's newspaper". With the resources at their disposal it's likely that such development will be on tap, but being able to blend "old news" editorial and advertising culture with Web-driven expectations of sophisticated readers via a cross-source portal may prove to be more difficult than Topix' purchasers may imagine. The good news is that they picked a pretty good place to start.
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