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News biggies buy into aggregation site

Gannett, Knight-Ridder and the Tribune Co. acquire controlling interest in the news aggregation site Topix.net.

News publishers Gannett, Knight-Ridder and the Tribune Co. have acquired controlling interest in the news aggregation site Topix.net, the latest dot-com target of traditional media outlets.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but each news network bought a 25 percent stake in Topix.net, for a total of 75 percent. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company, with nine employees, will remain independent and plans to grow "like a start-up" with the funding, CEO and co-founder Rich Skrenta said in an interview.

Topix aggregates news headlines from multiple sources, categorizes them and then lets people subscribe to feeds of topical or local news. The profitable service makes money from showing advertisements related to the categories of information, as well as from licensing fees.

Foreseeable ties with the three publishers' online ventures include cross promotions and ad sales, Skrenta said. For example, job listings for software engineers from Knight-Ridder's Careerbuilder.com could be used in a topic feed on technology news.

"We would have gone to these companies for partnerships online, and now that's part of the package," said Skrenta. "They've got a lot of assets to bring to the table."

The deal follows other media consolidation moves. The New York Times recently acquired About.com. The Wall Street Journal recently bought CBSMarketwatch.com. And InterActiveCorp this week agreed to purchase Ask Jeeves.