Topix is morphing itself into a citizen journalism service – a move that suggests it wasn’t able or wasn’t willing to compete in the news aggregation business with rivals such as Yahoo News and Google News. It’s an interesting move given Topix, which recently raised another round of venture capital, was hitting close to 10 million unique visitors a month at its peak last year. The problem, however, was the site had little stickiness with visitors quickly moving on. “We spent three years building up the audience,” Topix co-founder Rich Skrenta told CNet. “Now we can give people a microphoneâ€¦The problem was we were a read-only news site.”
Topix’s embrace of citizen journalism – it will let anyone submit news and photos and sign up to be a volunteer editor – is another shot in the arm for citizen journalism, which has, to date, has its ups and downs. Dan Gilmor’s Bayosphere project bit the dust while Vancouver-based NowPublic is rocking along, and close to raising another round of venture capital from U.S. investors. Personally, I’m on the fence about citizen journalism – more about the potential business model than the actual activity. NowPublic, for example, is hoping to generate revenue by signing licensing deals with mainstream news organizations such as AP even though its site could generate advertising revenue based on strong traffic. In theory, the idea of AP and other wire services outsourcing their news gathering to citizen journalists sounds great but how much will they actually use citizen journalists and, more important, how much are they willing to pay?