Friday, March 25, 2005

All the news that fits your ZIP: Topix.net

When three of the country's largest newspaper chains buy a stake in a website, you know this page must be doing something right. That site is Topix.net, a news aggregator similar to Google News. Each site has its own pluses and minuses, but something I enjoy about Topix is the geographically focused news pages it maintains. Type in a ZIP Code or city name at the top of the page, and you'll come up with a list of recent stories from -- or relevant to -- that particular area of the country. Here's Manhattan, NY's and here's the one for Manhattan, Kansas. Topix also has general topic pages as well as ones for famous people, specific sports, companies, etc.

Of course, while it claims to have this "NewsRank" technology that infuses some prioritization into the mix, Topix is still prone to odd choices of which stories to list higher. People whose job description it is to make judgments about stories and sources (aka "news editors") have at times criticized the poor judgments made by supposedly unbiased computer-run news aggregators, but then again, it's probably easier -- and cheaper(?) -- to rely on computers to do the lion's share of that work, especially when you have so many news sources to draw from on the web. Before Topix' partial sale to KR, Gannett and Tribune, it had an agreement with NYT that I assume had something to do with giving Times articles prominence (and their own box) on many of the news pages. My guess is you'll start seeing more of the same boxes when these other media companies start having some say.

Other recent tech headlines that caught my eye show the popularity and (lucrative) promise of digital photos:

Yahoo to buy Flickr & HP to buy Snapfish.

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