Listings aggregator Trulia has developed another widget the company says will help it tap into the "long tail" of visitors to hyperlocal sites by promoting listings tailored to geographic location.
Trulia’s new dynamic widget is scheduled to launch today on Topix, a Web "news community" that rounds up links to news stories and blogs, and helps users find and discuss them at the local level.
The dynamic widget will show Topix users a selection of listings in their area, although Trulia says it is not syndicating listings to Topix because clicking on the widget will take users to Trulia.
The new widget is the latest embeddable tool developed by Trulia to help the company generate traffic from about 50,000 partner Web sites, Chief Executive Officer Pete Flint said.
Those tools also include a more sophisticated publishing platform that allows visitors to sites like the St. Petersburg Times to search for more than 2.5 million listings through Trulia.
"We’re really excited about this," Flint said of the new partnership with Topix. "We’ve seen the best results when we’ve gotten down to the hyperlocal level. The great thing about Topix is they have a huge national reach as well as local content."
Terms of the agreement between Trulia and Topix LLC — a Palo Alto, Calif.-based company whose investors include newspaper chains Gannett Co. Inc., The McClatchy Co. and Tribune Co. — were not disclosed.
Figures from comScore put Topix as the seventh-ranked Web site within the newspaper subcategory of news and information sites. If chains like Hearst and McClatchy that "roll up" visitors to multiple sites are excluded, Topix is the fourth-most-popular stand-alone newspaper destination site on the Internet, according to comScore.
With 5.6 million unique visitors in March, Topix edged out HuffingtonPost.com, trailing only the New York Times, USA Today, and WashingtonPost.com among stand-alone sites, according to figures from comScore.
Hitwise reports that U.S. visits to Topix.com were up 17 percent in March from a year ago, and ranked the site as the 18th-most-popular news and media Web site for the week ending April 12.
Topix, which also offers users access to foreclosure listings through RealtyTrac, gathers links from an estimated 50,000 sources, including news stories, blog posts and government Web sites. Stories are summarized, categorized and linked to, and Topix offers forums for users to discuss them or other topics of their choosing.
Users can browse by categories, including real estate, or search for stories and discussion topics in their ZIP code or city.
In addition to serving up the information on the site, Topix is launching a new service making local real estate news available as commercial news feeds for real estate, mortgage and mortgage companies.
Because the Topix news feed is localized, real estate and mortgage companies could find it "very useful in attracting users and differentiating their sites from others," Chief Executive Officer Chris Tolles said.
While Topix was launched in 2004 as a news aggregation site, company officials say the addition of user-generated comments and forums two years later added another dimension to the site.
On Feb. 21, the site recorded a new benchmark, receiving more than 100,000 comments in Topix discussion forums in a single day, Tolles said.
The Internet is not just another distribution medium for broadcast media, Tolles told readers of the official company blog the next day.
"Sure, it’s a great way to connect to people all over the world, and it’s been amazing at destroying the business model that paid for all of that content," Tolles wrote. "But, really, the next step here is to empower everyone to talk to everyone else."
Last year, former Topix CEO Rich Skrenta lamented in his blog that "as cool a technical trick as our aggregated geolocalized news pages were, they actually pretty much sucked" because they didn’t always deliver the content they promised.
To augment its automated crawl of Web-based news and blog content that relied on artificial intelligence to sort articles by ZIP code, Topix gave human editors the ability to post their own stories and moderate the site’s growing forums, Skrenta explained in another blog post at the time.
Although Topix now claims to have up-to-date local and regional real estate news for all 32,500 ZIP codes in the country, the system isn’t perfect.
The top story in the "local headlines" on the Topix real estate page for Lansing, Mich., on Wednesday was a link to a report from the local newspaper about JPMorgan Chase’s first-quarter earnings.
The story apparently got sorted into Topix’s Lansing Real Estate page because the newspaper, the Lansing State Journal, "localized" a wire report by mentioning that "the bank has several Chase branches in the Lansing area."
There were no reader comments on that story, but the next story in the lineup — from the previous day’s State Journal — was about recent foreclosure activity in and around Michigan’s state capital. That story was followed by another — two days old — from the Detroit Free Press, about the rise in inventory in the metro Detroit area, which is about 90 miles east of Lansing (the page also offered a separate section for regional headlines).
The real estate discussion forum on Topix contained more than 2,500 threads, many with hundreds of comments. But some appeared to be off topic, including discussions about Hillary Clinton’s plans to appear on Comedy Central’s "Colbert Report," and a New York woman complaining on YouTube about the prenuptial agreement her wealthy, older husband made her sign.
"One of the most interesting aspects of running a place where millions of people interact is that you can get a good running start with algorithms and automated systems, but at the end of the day, we’ve found having people to look at the corner cases is critical for a healthy system," Tolles acknowledged in his blog post announcing the record number of comments on Feb. 21.
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