[Posted May 30, 2016]
PROFIT OVER PEOPLE
The ultimate end of unregulated Capitalism, the commodification of human suffering and life destruction.
Digiday bills itself as: “a media company and community for digital media, marketing and advertising professionals. We focus on quality, not quantity, and honesty instead of spin”
In 2011, they interviewed Chris Tolles who answered questions from Digiday focusing on his site Topix and how it gathers revenue from advertisers.
5Qs: Topix’s Chris Tolles
Digiday: While other hyperlocal news sites are busy trying to create a scalable model of a website in which paid journalists cover local news against which local advertising can be sold, Chris Tolles, a founder and CEO of Topix, is taking a different approach. Topix hosts thousands of local forums on which community members post local news, express concerns and, yes, occasionally sneak in some porn. And there’s not a journalist in sight. Tolles thinks it just might be the future of news.
News? Just might be the future of news? Anyone who has taken the briefest peek at Topix knows that there is very little there in the way of news. See for yourself, this is the Topix recently updated forums list, it is a way to see what is happening on the site every minute of the day and night.
Topix Recently Updated Forums
I have seen hundreds of local and International forums and know for a fact they have little news on them. Also, almost every single forum has loads and loads of real-name attack threads where people – children included – are being attacked by their real name. There are death threats all over the site. Its not uncommon to see people begging to be left alone, the suffering is immense, the harm to and destruction of lives, all-too-real and the scale of it, extremely large.
Tolles sees all this as Profit.
Chris Tolles: We launched in 2004 as a pure play news aggregator — when we noticed that 45 percent of the site that had to do with local news, we realized that there was a hole in the market. After we proceeded down the local path for a while, we saw that there was an issue around having only 1,400 daily newspapers, 4,000 TV stations and 3,000 radio stations producing only a few truly local articles per day. We realized that we would have to boot up a local site, we would have to get unique content contributed by the people on the site, and we built out a commentary system, first to comment on existing news articles, and then enabling people to start their own news stories. Now we are successfully monetizing user-generated local commentary and are profitable based on ads, many of which take advantage of our aggregation of local audiences.
Start their own news stories? Check out the “news stories” that are posted on the Paducah KY forum:
Paducah KY Topix Forum
Take advantage of the aggregation of local audiences? Monitize Topix content? Tolles has somehow been able to convince advertisers that the number of threads and comments, equals potential consumers for their ads. You have to wonder what advertiser would advertise with content like the very common real-name attack threads. The advertiser that does that, is seeking to make money off of someone being slandered, sometimes having their life ripped apart. Its chilling to imagine. But the thing is, Topix advertisers most often do not know where their ads are placed or what they are placed next to. They are sold on abstract numbers, numbers all-too-easy to forge, often unaware of exactly what they are paying for.
Digiday gently broaches the subject:
Digiday: User generated content presents a particular set of problems including inappropriate posts and images. How do you assure advertisers that the content against which their ads appear is within acceptable limits?
Tolles basically skirts the question and says nothing about the questions long-asked about moderation on Topix – so few moderators, posts taking up 7 days and longer to delete, feedback being lost by moderators, biased moderation.
Chris Tolles: Our forums are primarily text based. There are photos, but they are a very small part of the site. We have a fairly robust AI system to moderate the content, and we monetize much of the user generated component of our site with performance based advertising or recirculate the users from the user generated sections to those primarily focused on advertising.
Again, he is talking about monitizing user content. Here is an example of very typical content found on the Paducah forum:
just sayin wrote:
I catch myself touching myself while watching the news…. man what a piece of meat! Where does she hang out I would love to run into her 1 night?
Women are trashed on Topix like nowhere else on the web. Don’t think crap like this doesn’t stick sometimes, it does, sadly.
To begin to get an idea of how common abuse of women is on the site, a Google search for “sluts topix” yields page after page after page after page, of threads.
Google search for “sluts topix”
Another search for another common thread title on Topix: “Dead Beat Moms” shows the extent families and mothers are being targeted, page after page after page of threads, turn up in the search.
Google search “dead beat moms, topix”
The huge volume of racism on the site turns up in this search:
Google search “coons, topix”
Again the glaring question is, what advertiser finds threads and comments like this of value to them and their products? I have for example, seen many cosmetic ads on the site. Do the advertisers on Topix realize what content their ad is sitting next to? They often do not.
Over and over again, Tolles shows his total lack of empathy for the people being attacked on his site, he simply does not care about them. The more the better, in his mind, more hits, more money. He sleeps soundly at night. From another interview:
Chris Tolles: I can sleep pretty soundly.
The scale of Topix, is enormous, just the local forums. Not to mention, there are International and Topic forums.
Chris Tolles: We have over 400,000 different categories of forum, including 35,000 local forums. We are focused on the local components of these, and are constantly working on ways to boot up new towns and grow the activity base of Topix. One of the nice things is that having 1,500 active towns makes us a very large player in the hyperlocal space.
Large player in hyperlocal? That word refers to local news. Again, what news???
Digiday asks Tolles “What is compelling to advertisers about Topix?”
Chris Tolles: Daily deal sites are paying top dollar for clicks around local. It’s a huge windfall for us that these guys have driven up the prices for local search inventory. Our approach is monetizing our content through third party advertisers, be those traditional display ads or cost per click networks. So, I see content sites like ours as a channel, or a marketing partner for daily deals revenue. We are competing more against different approaches (such as going to television or targeting behaviorally) for ad dollars, rather than against other local players. We are compelling because we can take an ad and easily localize that ad in a single place to a wide set of audiences. It is more likely that the ad agency looking for local inventory is going to buy placement on both Topix and Patch (and local newspaper sites for that matter) if it’s easy, instead of doing a bake off between us. Deciding to focus on local is a win for us and our approach.
I don’t know what he means by daily deal sites but as for paying top dollar for clicks around local, the content on his local forums needs a whole lot of questioning and exposure. Way too many lives are being destroyed and harmed on his local forums, there are serious issues with the moderation, and there is no way, the destruction of American lives should be a source of revenue for anyone, not for advertisers, not for Tolles.
Advertisers are being misled by Topix Media Kit, which is full of lies and has the nerve to make claim:
Topix is the leading news site for women
The existence of a Topix.com AND a Topix.net, brings questions into play as to how accurate the Topix page-view numbers are.
Over and over again in the interview Tolles talks about monitizing content, yet to him, there are absolutely no distinguishers between good and bad content, in fact he encourages libel and bullying.
Chris Tolles: We here at Topix are champions of free speech and will cheerfully enable anonymous insults and salacious gossip.
Don’t criticize him though! Its not even a question, that he himself uses his site to bully critics, as is happening on the thread where he made the above statement.
Our Stance: RE: WPSD Local 6 Story on Topix
The use of his site to bully critics and political figures, brings into question how much of this is intent. As it currently exists, Topix is a vehicle for slander the likes of which was never before, the most dangerous site on the Internet.
But don’t think that means Free, there is as much censorship and attempts at control on Topix as an Authoritarian Dictatorship, and
“not a journalist in sight. Tolles thinks it just might be the future of news.”
Profit over People is dead-wrong.