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Topix.net Has One Impressive Year from Both Business and User Perspective; Ends Year with New Look and Design

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If you read this blog on a regular basis, it's likely that you know I'm a big fan and user of Topix.net. I've been a user since nearly day one and have seen the service improve on a very regular basis. This year when I was asked what some of my favorite new tools and services were of 2004, Topix.net was at or near the top of the list in most cases.

2005 has been what most would characterize as a great second year for Rich Skrenta, Chris Tolles and the rest of the Topix.net team. From the business standpoint, the biggest news would obviously be the acquisition of 75% of the company by three large newspaper publishing companies. 2005 also saw Topix move to new offices and announce a deal with the New York Times.

While all of that is some very impressive business, as is often the case, I would prefer to talk about what's new and useful from the user standpoint. The good news as with all of this change and "business" happening, Topix.net has not rested on its laurels. Far from it. Here's a quick look at a few highlights, some as recent as last week.

+ A new, crisp and clean look (and new logo) of the Topix.net home page and all category pages (what they refer to as channels. It looks great. Kudos on what Erin calls a makeover. Search results pages also have a new look. However, it's possible to click to the old or "classic view." (Last Week)

+ A recent increase from 300,000 to 360,000 Topix.net categories/channels. RSS feeds are available for all of them. (Last Week)

+ The addition what amounts to public forums for each and every article in the database. Personally, this doesn't do much for me but that's just me. I know that some people love to comment on everything so the forums encourage community (good business) and get people to return to the site (more good business). Users can also post their own stories (community journalism angle). You need to be a registered member to post. Micro Persuasion has more on these new forums. (Last Week)

+ The addition of 15,000 blogs to the Topix database that was already aggregating more than 12,000 "mainstream" news sources. They've done a solid job to this point of merging both types of content and picking worthwhile blogs. In my post that introduced this new content, Topix CEO, Rich Skrenta, shared some amazing stats about the blogosphere about the building of this portion of their overall database and the number of blogs in general. (November)

+ The expansion of Topix into Canada with new local pages for most Canadian postal codes and new Canadian sources. (June).

Other Things I Like and Fast Facts
+ I'm not sure if this was a 2005 or 2004 UI tweak but I appreciate how Topix separates press releases from other content. For example, this channel about the Health Care Industry clearly labels press releases in the column on the right side of the page.

+ Btw, many users don't realize that the Topix database offers an advanced search interface that offers several options including limiting your search to blogs or eliminate blogs from the search, limit by source, Zip Code, url, category, and/or date. Boolean is available as are fielded search syntax and wildcard searching.

+ Topix allows you to browse a small portion of its more than 360,000 topic directory

+ Email alerts. Still no keyword-based alerts or feeds (2006?) but this alert delivers headlines from the front page.

As you can see, 2005 was a great year for Topix.net both from the business side and from the user perspective. Let's hope 2006 continues in the same manner.


Postscript:
Topix.net CEO Rich Skrenta and Chris Tolles, VP of sales and marketing, were also quoted and interviewed in the press many times in '05. Here are links to just a couple of those items.

+ A Conversation with Rich Skrenta and Chris Tolles from Topix.net
An interview from the Online Journalism Review

+ Topix.net CEO Speaks

+ ODP Founder Comments & Moving Past Directories


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