PaidContent’s Rafat Ali has the scoop on the future of Topix, the local news aggregator and search site owned by several competing newspaper companies. Apparently, as they rebrand from Topix.net to Topix.com, they will also be changing the focus of their site from software-selected content to human editors and citizen journalism.
The homepage will become a hub of citizen-generated news (more Netscape.com-like in implementation than Digg), with easy-to-use tools for users to blog/vote stories onto the main and section pages.
Much like before, the site’s focus is on zip-cod based local news. Anyone can now submit local news for any U.S. zip code through the site or through mobiles. Participants can also become editors of the local pages.
I find the new focus fascinating because I have believed for some time that as good as computers are, they can’t replace editorial judgment entirely. Moreover, I believe that human review can remove some of the antiseptic feel of completely computer generated sites.
It will be interesting to see the results of the change, though I do wonder about whether the fact that they are making two major changes simultaneously will make it harder to determine the success of either. Rick Skentra is one of the smarter thinkers in the information aggregation space, though, so I wouldn’t bet against their ability to pull this one off.
UPDATE: Rick has now posted a detailed explanation. Worth a read.