I was at Topix last week chatting with Chris Tolles and CEO Rick Skrenta and they told me of their acquisition of the Topix.com domain from a Canadian firm. Under pain of torture I was sworn to secrecy. That news came out in Kevin Delaney’s WSJ article (sub req’d) today, which focused on SEO issues and continuing site visibility after a domain change.
There were tons of posts that tied in to that article and discussed the involved issues, like Danny Sullivan’s lengthy piece this morning. Most of the posts covered the traffic questions and Google’s responsiveness or unresponsiveness to Skrenta’s inquiries.
I didn’t read all the related coverage but few of the posts talked about the issue that is really central here: being a site that people serendipitously discover or stumble upon or being a brand. Topix, having had great success (10 million uniques) as an SEO’d site is now opting to become a brand (Skrenta goes into this to some degree). That’s why they’ve chosen to acquire the domain.
Right now it’s a site that offers two general differentiators vs. other news sites and aggregators: local news and community. Others, especially newspaper sites (and Yahoo! News) have local news and, increasingly, community is making its way into news sites: Digg, USAToday, MySpace, etc.
Having the “.com” extension doesn’t automatically make Topix into a brand, but it’s part of a larger strategy. Execution is key of course and they’ve got some interesting things coming.