Who knows what’s going to happen to the Tribune Company (as it tries to sell itself). But for the time being it has taken a good step (about time) in starting to leverage Topix.net’s numerous strengths. As you may remember, Tribune, Gannett and KnightRidder (now McClatchy) bought a 75% stake in Topix in March of 2006. Topix, until recently, was the only news aggregator with local news (Yahoo! has beefed up that capability).
I’ve written in the past about how the newspapers could use Topix community features and/or news aggregation capabilities to become instant new aggregators themselves.
Tribune has struck a deal that has Topix providing content and a back-end platform for general merchandise classifieds on their newspaper sites. (Tribune is currently trying to sell itself.) Consumers will be able to upload images and text descriptions, starting on the Baltimore Sun site, but extending to all of Tribune’s 11 other newspaper sites by May. The ads will also be distributed across Topix.net’s thousands of local news pages.
The ads are free, which is the nationwide trend with private party merchandise. This deal does not extend to cars, jobs or real estate, which have resisted the free trend to varying degrees. There will apparently be a paid category (offering premium placement) as well, which is the basis for a revenue share between Topix and Tribune.
Topix has offered free classifieds listings on its own site since June of 2006. A few newspaper sites have also begun to use Topix to power comments and community on their sites as well.
Greg Sterling is the founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm focused on online consumer and advertiser behavior and the relationship between the Internet and traditional media, with an emphasis on the local marketplace.