WHO OWNS TOPIX WEBSITE

WHO OWNS TOPIX WEBSITE
SUBMITTED BY JAMES BROWN
DO YOU THINK THAT IT IS ETHICAL FOR RELIABLE NEWS COMPANIES SUCH AS  GANNETT, TRIBUNE AND McCLATCHY TO OWN AN UNETHICAL AND ABUSIVE WEBSITE LIKE TOPIX?
In August 2006 a press release  indicated that GANNETT (GCI), Tribune and McClatchy a triumverate of the nations most powerful newspaper holding companies had increased major equity stakes in web companies such as Topix.net.
 Since that time,  dozens of these companies have dumped TOPIX as their online commenting forum in spite of still maintaining ownership of Topix shares, in place of manageable and registration based services such as FACEBOOK, OPEN ID, YAHOO or DISQUS.

Under the agreement, Gannett and Tribune would each increase their equity stakes in Topix to 31.9%.

THE TRANSACTION

The agreement valued Topix.net at $72 million.

In November of 2006 VENTURE WIRE reported that TOPIX was valued at approximately $72 million.  That year, Topix stated that it raised $15 million in additional funds from their media investors GANNETT (GCI), TRIBUNE (privately held) and McCLATCHY (MNI) raising their states in TOPIX to the following percentages:

GANNETT – 33.7%
TRIBUNE – 33.7%

McCLATCHY – 11.9%

One website has estimated Topix’s revenue at $1 million per year which could be a big paper loss for McClatchy, Gannett and Tribune who it appear to have invested initially in the company when it was valued at $72 million and then invested $15 million more.

TOPIX does not appear to have any hard assets other than office assets, but with their ability to dominate GOOGLE searches, they certainly do have some soft assets.  Of course what they DO with those assets, is everyone’s concern.

Topix refused to disclose the financials of the deal but one article  puts the cost at about $5 million.  Combine that with the $15 million subsequently invested and the total was $20 million.

Since they don’t invest in moderators very much, their biggest salaries are no doubt their execs.

So, Topix generates quite a bit of secret money for Tribune, McClatchy and Gannett but the question is, do they have any way to make money if they do not attract unmoderated town by town forums?  Furthermore, do they have any social value?  Any at all.

Topix simply reaps the benefits because they own the Google searches better than most of the newspaper sites do.  So, the reasons for affiliation with Topix by media companies is all but gone, leaving one to wonder if they are just quietly profiting from Topix command of the anonymous blog world or if they are afraid that selling their investment would kill the company and create more attention.

So, as of March 2005 Topix ownership was as follows:

Founders – 25%

Gannett – 25%

Knight-Ridder (McClatchy now) – 25%

Tribune – 25%

It was more widely publicized that the triumvirate invested $15 million more however the investments were not equal because at the end of the deal, the  ownership was divided as follows:

GANNETT – 33.7%    TRIBUNE – 33.7%  McCLATCHY – 11.9%

We presume the balance twenty percent to be still owned by the founders of Topix LLC

Topix Can Skirt New California Cyberbullying Law

A new law in California, SB1411, makes it a crime to create a fake online profile to harm someone.   This law addresses the rather understood situation where someone makes up a fake Facebook or MySpace account and harms someone through defamation, harassment or cyber bullying.

However, the fact that nobody has to register with Topix to comment means that Topix can be used to skirt the law.  You don’t have to ‘fake it’ with Topix.  You can legally hide.  This creates two interesting issues:

1) Does this law create an incentive for companies to drop registration altogether.  After all, the law basically says that if you don’t have to identify yourself anyway, you can harm people online.

2) Since Topix does not require registration, is it possible that judges might interpret the law this way:  Anonymous comments are all fake.  In other words, either you identify yourself, or you are fake.  In this way, all anonymous posts which harm, will be interpreted as fake and will be covered by the law.

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HOW DO THINGS FROM TOPIX APPEAR SO FAST ON GOOGLE?

Topix has instituted no measures which would prevent cyberbullying, harassment, cyber stalking, antisemitism, hate and defamation in spite of years of complaint and abuse by victims, many of who have suffered emotional, psychological, and financial harm from lost jobs and destroyed reputations. 

So, if the literal comings and goings, our purchasing decisions and virtually every piece of data which can be collected about our use of the internet, the public deserves to understand why Google searches give an unusually high and powerful relevance to user generated news on Topix.

It is clear that what Google does behind the scenes is a closely guarded secret but there doesn’t seem to be any major economic advantage to Google, as many other websites have much more reliable news.  In fact,  research has shown that once a person’s name has been removed from Topix, Google searches on that person’s name bring up a much richer variety of relevant websites.

In order to be able to further trust Google, we all need to know what their views are on handing Topix so much power.

The Bizarre Phenomenon of Topix Echo

Some new information about the bizarre phenomenon that has been named Topix Echo.  When a Topix post is deleted, there are several different artifacts that remain on the internet:

1) The actual link to the deleted post will still work.  It will land on the Topix main page for the town where the post had existed.  This is a good deal for Topix because they get more traffic to their site and in fact capture traffic that they really have no apparent right to.  For example, if the post about Augustus Gloop is deleted (see below) then future searches on Augustus’s name will bring people to the TOPIX page in one of several Illinois towns, instead of to pages with relevant information about the fictional Roald Dahl character.

However, Topix instead just redirects to their local site and this tells GOOGLE that the search result might still be relevant.  This practice is COMMON with legitimate news sites which archive articles over time and perhaps want to sell you the archived article.  But the assertion is that if it justified being deleted, then it justifies being de-indexed.

2) The CACHE of the post may still exist for a time.  All search engines take a snapshot of web pages that they index.  When the page has changed or been deleted, Google may take some time to change the snapshot.  Therefore, Google will have their own version of the page (it has less images than the actual page and no apps, Java, etc) which you can see by clicking CACHED next to the web result.

3) TOPIX ECHO

People searching for the Topix post, or the subject of the posts name, or the defamed company, will just end up on Topix (usually the town page where the post existed) even if the CACHE is gone and there is no link to the deleted post.  There are cases of people whose names were on Topix for years, whose names were deleted off Topix.  Yet when you Google that person’s name and town, even though their name appears NOWHERE on Topix, you will come to the Topix city page  In many cases, the Topix page will be the NUMBER ONE result of a search on that person’s name, a name which exists nowhere on the page.  This is an irrelevant Google search result.

Topix Controls GOOGLE – The Shocking Truth

Google is the most used search engine in the world and one of the most powerful internet companies in existence today.  Whole businesses exist to help companies maximize their position and relevance with respect to GOOGLE SEARCHES.
Yet a Topix post, anonymous and unmoderated (other than for profanity), could be listed on a local GOOGLE search in just six minutes.  And within a day, it can become the number one destination for certain search terms on GOOGLE.
How is this possible for a website which draws its content from other sources or from web users and, more importantly, which has no verification whatsoever as to the truthfulness of what is posted on its site?  Meanwhile, the evidence is there to prove that whatever is posted on Topix unfairly rides high on search engine relevance, whether it is true or not, harmful or not or relevant or not.

Knowing that Topix posts are anonymous, do not require registration, and are under moderated, one can easily see the power that defamation, harassment or cyberbullying has on Topix.

I do  not understand why it is that GOOGLE affords Topix such unprecedented domination of web searches, especially when under ten people are moderating Topix forums.

TOXIC TOPIX:

Toxic Topix has uncovered three pieces of information relevant to GOOGLE searches which may help readers understand why unmoderated anonymous posts of any kind, whether true or false, defamation or news, abusive or reasonable, seem to ride to the top of GOOGLE searches.  Google’s search technology is patented and thousands have tried to understand exact how it works.  So the information below is speculative based on research done by others:

1)  new!!!  Google counts the number of times that a website is linked to around the internet.  The more links, the more relevance the website is given.  However typically, multiple links from the same website are only treated once.  Research has shown that Topix forums typically link to each other in various ways and Topix crossposts forums on nearby towns.  However, Google may be treating these as individual news storiesIf this is true then Topix can boost traffic to its own pages by linking to itself and this would give Topix a crazy amount of power over Google, potentially more than any other user generated content site.

2) Google appears to give a higher rank to websites which have historically been reliable sources of information whether or not they still are.  In other words, as a news aggregator, Topix drew in very reliable news from very reliable news sources.  This gave anything written on Topix alot of relevance for GOOGLE.

3) It is known  to find out that GOOGLE probably promotes (meaning it gives higher relevance) to sites which are listed and categorized by  DMOZ.  DMOZ is a human created directory of websites and DMOZ was basically begun as the Open Directory Project which just so happens to be the predecessor to the creation of TOPIX.COM.

I am also reminded that GOOGLE is a COMPANY not the government and therefore they can be unfair and unbiased.

The problem of course is that we TRUST GOOGLE and if they (GOOGLE) are consistently giving priority to TOPIX it really means that GOOGLE is partially a TOPIX search engine and not an engine that actually provides a full and complete web search.

It also begs the question as to WHY Google gives Topix such power.

I realize that Topix is a news aggregator and therefore using it to facilitate searching for news is effective for you apparently.

However, Topix forums are not newsThey are unmoderated and littered with garbage, yet GOOGLE searches give them the highest of priority other than superpower websites like CNN.COM or AMAZON.COM

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Topix CEO Chris Tolles Getting Defensive – Is the Truth Coming Out?

Topix CEO Chris Tolles claims that Topix champions free speech, enabling anonymous insults and salacious gossip, both of which are fine of you are TMZ or INSIDE EDITION talking about public figures but highly destructive when targeting private citizens and youth (and Topix has no way to tell what is true and what isn’t).

IIt is  actually thought that Topix is taking this stand for the most part because it gives them a ’cause’ which justifies their pushing internet ads for profits on things that other people write.  I think that if Topix had to actually do the work to make their site responsible that they would lose their “money maker.”

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