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News: Topix Beds The Newspapers…

By - March 22, 2005

TopixRich Skrenta, CEO of Topix, which I wrote of glowingly here, called me earlier today to break the news: His company is selling a 75% stake to three major newspaper businesses: Gannett, Knight Ridder, and the Tribune Company. None of the new companies will have the ability to control the company, and this alone says volumes about how Web 2.0 is terrifying the newspaper industry. They can’t even buy their competition outright!

Rich would not give me a ballpark valuation, but given that he has real revenues and a scalable model with OEM potential (in terms of optimizing contextual ads and local), I’d wager it was pretty good – better than Flickr, perhaps.

I’m just in from a few whirlwind days at PCForum, which had a lot of search in it. I’ll be digesting this news, as well as PCForum thoughts, over the next few days. Meanwhile, the Topix release is in extended entry.

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GANNETT, KNIGHT RIDDER AND TRIBUNE ACQUIRE A 75% STAKE IN TOPIX.NET

Combination of Technology, Media Assets and Reach

to Power Growth of Topix.net

CHICAGO, McLEAN, VA. and SAN JOSE, CALIF, March 23, 2005 .Topix.net

announced today that Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI), Knight-Ridder,

Inc. (NYSE: KRI) and Tribune Company (NYSE: TRB) jointly have acquired

a 75 percent stake in Topix.net. Ownership is split evenly, with

each media company owning 25 percent and the Topix.net founders

retaining a 25 percent stake. Financial terms of the transaction

were not disclosed.

Topix.net continuously monitors breaking news from over 10,000 online

sources and categorizes daily news content into over 300,000 topics,

24 hours a day. Topix.net will operate as an editorially independent,

stand-alone company managed by Topix.net.s executive team. Topix.net

will use content and funding from Gannett, Knight Ridder and

Tribune to expand and refine its NewsRank. technology, services and

operational infrastructure.

“This transaction provides us with the resources to be the best

place to connect to a very wide range of news on the Web,” said Rich

Skrenta, CEO and co-founder of Topix.net. .We all serve the news

enthusiast, so it.s a natural partnership. Gannett, Knight Ridder and

Tribune generate valuable online content and Topix.net is dedicated

to making that content easily found. By believing in the potential of

our ideas and technology, they have made an investment in the future,

and we.re thrilled to be a part of it..

Topix.net features links to news and information from more than 10,000

news sources including newspapers, magazines, radio, television

stations and Web logs. Topix.net distributes news through its Web

site, RSS feeds and email news alerts. It syndicates its content

through partnerships and tens of thousands of Web sites that host

news feeds from Topix.net.

Topix.net uses its NewsRank. technology to deliver highly relevant

news, using concept, instead of simple keyword searches. It delivers

published news stories organized by ZIP code, industry and hundreds

of thousands of topics.

.People want the news that.s relevant to them . where they live, the

business that they are in, the topics they care about. Topix.net.s

technology will leverage the media assets and broad reach of our

three companies in entirely new ways,. said Jack Williams,senior

vice president diversified business and development at Gannett. .We

are extremely pleased to partner with Topix.net to grow and develop

its service and help audiences find the news they want online..

Collectively, Gannett, Knight Ridder and Tribune operate more than 140

newspaper Web sites with nearly 30 million unique visitors monthly. The

companies have partnered together in other joint ventures such as

ShopLocal.com and CareerBuilder.com.

About Topix.net:

Founded in 2002 with the specific mission of providing users with the

ability to quickly and easily find targeted news on the Internet,

Topix.net is a news aggregator with unique technology to find and

categorize news into 300,000 topics, from Autos to ZIP code level local

news. Topix.net distributes content via partnerships with Citysearch,

Ask Jeeves, My Yahoo!, Bloglines, Metro Newspapers, Newsgator, Findory,

Wondir, Infospace, Link Silicon Valley and HelloMetro.com.

Gannett Co., Inc. is a leading international news and information

company that publishes 101 daily newspapers in the USA, including

USA TODAY, the nation.s largest-selling daily newspaper. The

company also owns in excess of 750 non-daily publications in the

USA and USA WEEKEND, a weekly newspaper magazine. Gannett subsidiary

Newsquest is the United Kingdom.s second largest regional newspaper

company. Newsquest publishes more than 300 titles, including 17

daily newspapers, and a network of prize-winning Web sites. Gannett

also operates 21 television stations in the United States and is an

Internet leader with sites sponsored by its TV stations and newspapers

including USATODAY.com, one of the most popular news sites on the Web.

Knight Ridder (NYSE: KRI) is the nation.s second-largest newspaper

publisher, with products in print and online. The company publishes 31

daily newspapers in 28 U.S. markets, with a readership of 9.0 million

daily and 12.7 million Sunday. Knight Ridder also has investments

in a variety of Internet and technology companies and two newsprint

companies. The company.s Internet operation, Knight Ridder Digital,

develops and manages the company.s online properties. It is the

founder and operator of Real Cities (www.RealCities.com), the

largest national network of city and regional Web sites in more

than 105 U.S. markets. Knight Ridder and Knight Ridder Digital are

headquartered in San Jose, Calif.

Tribune (NYSE: TRB) is one of the country.s premier media companies,

operating businesses in broadcasting and publishing. It reaches more

than 80 percent of U.S. households and is the only media organization

with television stations, newspapers and websites in the nation.s

top three markets. In publishing, Tribune operates 14 leading

daily newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune,

Newsday and Spanish-language Hoy, plus a wide range of targeted

publications. The company.s broadcasting group operates 26 television

stations; Superstation WGN on national cable; WGN-AM in Chicago;

and the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Popular news and information

websites complement Tribune.s print and broadcast properties and

extend the company.s nationwide audience.

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  • http://www.buzzhit.com Tony Gentile

    I think it shows more savvy than fright; better to eat your own than let others do it to you. Give ‘em that much…

    http://www.buzzhit.com/2005/03/rumor-knight-ridder-buys-topixnet.html

  • http://dossy.org/ Dossy

    None of the new companies will have the ability to control the company, and this alone says volumes about how Web 2.0 is terrifying the newspaper industry. They can’t even buy their competition outright!

    Um, as Tony suggests, I think this isn’t a “couldn’t” but rather a “shouldn’t” or “oughtn’t”. Just like Jeff Jarvis is whining for Google News transparency, if Topix.net majority ownership was by a mass-media company, someone would shout “biased selection!” even if it weren’t true.

    This play is a GREAT way for Gannett, Knight Ridder and Tribune to provide financial support for Topix.net without appearing to have any direct influence over the company. It’s essentially the modern-day form of “paying the paper-boy” — if Topix.net directs traffic to these online newspapers, it’s essentially the same “job” as the traditional paper-boy, schlepping newspapers door to door to subscribers.

    Either way, I echo Bob Wyman’s praise and congratulations to Rich Skrenta and the other folks at Topix.net — well done!

  • http://blog.contentious.com agahran

    Hi, John.

    Thanks for publishing this article. I noted it today in Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits blog: http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=31&aid=80108

    You should check the comment from Vin Crosbie to that item. He strongly disagrees with your assertion, “None of the new companies will have the ability to control the company.” He’d like some further clarification on that. It would be great if you could pop in over there and respond to him.

    Thanks,

    - Amy Gahran
    Editor, CONTENTIOUS