Chris Tolles, the head of marketing, for Topix, the news aggregator, may be the only guy in the Valley who speaks faster than Marc Andreessen. By the time he was done with his two hour brain dump Tuesday in Wired's dining room I was whipped.
But it's good he came by. I haven't been paying enough attention to what he and his few dozen colleagues down in Palo Alto have been doing. I thought Topix was just another news aggregator like Google News or Yahoo News, and I figured that since it was backed by Tribune, Gannett and McClatchy, I wasn't going to be impressed. Wrong.
It's become common among readers to moan about how all news is becoming commoditized. There's some truth to this when it applies to news out of Washington or Iraq. Not true of local news, however. Every publication writing about a place like Huntington Beach thinks about the news there differently. You'd have to check the Independent, the Daily Pilot, the Orange County Register, the LA Times and the Long Beach Press Telegram to really find out what was going on.
This is what is cool about Topix. A geolocating algorithm they've developed allows you to get all the news relevant to any zip code or city from all of its 50,000 news sources. Punch in the coordinates for Surf City and you get all the stories out of all the local papers, without repeats, in one place, along with news about Huntington Beach from other locales like Santa Cruz. You can comment on any of the stories, and people do in droves. Total comments for all stories now approach 100,000.
You can also use Topix to search 5,500 public company and industry verticals, 48,000 celebrities and musicians, 1,500 sports teams and personalities. You used to have to pay big money to do a Lexis-Nexis search to get info like this or pay a clipping service like Burrelles. Now anyone can do it for free. Something tells me this is going to be a very big deal.