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Topix.net - 2M unique/pm and $1m revenue

Interview reveals some pretty impressive adsense technique

     
11:52 am on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Read the story at: Online Journalism Review:
[ojr.org...]

That type of experimentation led Topix to optimize its Google AdSense ads on
the site, using artificial intelligence to make the strangely juxtaposed ads
much more useful -- improving clickthroughs and making the site look better.

That being said, I haven't seen a lot of evidence of the technique during my cursory glance at their site.

12:50 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Interesting, their google ads displaying when I go to the page are very unrelevant to the page, but relevant to my area... its showing all ads about fort lauderdale hotels, real estate etc. I don't see anything on the page about that.Seems like Geo-targetted google ads.
1:15 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the heads up on this SofterLogic_UK.

Topix have been on my radar for some time.

Just a few things concerning the article.

1. It is absolutely worth reading.

2. Topix use "google_kw" and "google_kw_type" in their
AdSense code to help further define the ads that AdSense will serve to them. They are used throughout the whole site. This is the only technique that I can see that they are using that would improve the quality and focus of the ads being served to them by Google. These parameters are, of course, not available to standard AdSense publishers. I am just making a presumption when I say that Topix must be a premium publisher.

3. On some pages where ctr rates are poor for them (notably including the home page), Topix may take cookie information and adjust the "google_kw" to reflect the pages that you have been visiting on their site and serve up a more "relevant" advert for the user than what Google would normally serve up for the content on that page. For example, after viewing their Lincoln Nebraska page a couple of times, the "google_kw" on their home page was adjusted and came back as "lincoln ne". They are obviously making an assumption that because you viewed the Lincoln Nebraska page, you may be from Lincoln or interested in Lincoln and would be interested in seeing ads from that city.

3. I am just speculating when I ask if 2 million uniques would translate into 20 million pageviews and qualify them as a premium publisher. I suppose it might if they had enough repeat visitors in any given month.

4. Their comments on scrapers were most interesting. They expect 90% of internet content in the future to be pure spam (just like email).

1:48 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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That's interesting about the premium publisher variables. So what we're talking is topix are second-guessing the ad focus and throwing them into the adsense.

I guess they also have the chance to filter out low paying keywords and opt for a more competitive broader term.

Incidentally, targetting ads based upon what you have looked at seems to be a major breach of their own Privacy Policy, to me.

Topix.net may share information about you with advertisers, business partners, sponsors, and other third parties. However, we only divulge aggregate information about our users and will not share personally identifiable information with any third party without your express consent.

By sending personalised, individual, keywords to Google reflecting what you've been doing they are giving information from their cookies about your browsing habits to a third party (Google) who can individually identify you by your IP. The information is not aggregate as it is individual to you, not an overall trend across all users.

2:31 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I'm still trying to wrap my head around the $64 million valuation on 2+million uniques a month and $1 million in first year revenues.

Knight Ridder must see a lot of leverage potential in this as well as hedging their bets. IMHO, Google News put the fear of God into a lot of Media empires and changed the rules of the game.

Now, Knight Ridder got themselves a controlling stake in Topix which is probably the 3rd or 4th most popular news search engine after Google, Yahoo and MSN Newsbot. If Topix can increase market share, and the interest/appeal of print media continues to decline, that $64 million might seem like a sweet deal 4 or 5 years from now.

From a profit standpoint, Topix isn't worth $64 million for 75 percent, but from the ability to control news in/news out on outlet that has a large market share and strong local appeal - $64 million might be a small price to pay in the minds of forward thining execs at KR.

Only time will tell...

3:38 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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All I can say is, it must be nice to be able to call up your old friends at dmoz and say "Can you add every page of my site to your directory"? I expect that similar largesse would boost both my traffic and AdSense revenues.
3:39 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Freedom: It says in the article that the three purchasers bought Topix.net because Topix.net knows how to improve returns on adsense.
3:59 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Right, but it also says they are not profitable anymore after this investment. It'll take 20 years to get their money back on just Adsense, and 20 years is eternity in the IT business. I just think there is more to then just AS.
4:37 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Technology that is useful to make contextual advertising profitable in a newspaper setting would have a great deal of value. It would translate to all of the newspaper's properties, many of which probably produce few clicks and little revenue despite contextual matching - people read newspapers, after all, for the news, and are thus often not in an ad-clicking consumer mode.
4:41 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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people read newspapers, after all, for the news, and are thus often not in an ad-clicking consumer mode.

That's not what the Topix people are saying:

Because we were working on the advertising with the content from Day 1, we realized that 50 percent of the content that people want in the newspaper is commercial content. I get the Sunday paper, and I look at the real estate section, and it's actually 100 percent ads with a couple fake stories, you know, from the Knight Ridder network on title insurance and mold and stuff. It's fascinating and I want to know. It's 100 percent commercial, but it's news to me.
5:08 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I wonder how those 2M monthly uniques break down between search engine referrals and clicks brought in by their RSS feeds.

Given their fantastic DMOZ saturation and the fact they have more than 1M pages indexed in Google, I would guess that they are getting a ton of Google referrals.

5:16 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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some pretty impressive adsense technique

Heck, if I had the privilege to use some of those special premium publisher keywords, I could probably code some "pretty impressive" hint-serving technology myself.

6:25 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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what we did was look at the cookie and see what pages they visited on Topix

Great idea and a future improvement for adsense imo.