Topix.Net taps CooperKatz based upon blog relationship

NEW YORK: Topix.Net, an upstart competitor in the news aggregation business, has retained CooperKatz as its PR agency of record.

NEW YORK: Topix.Net, an upstart competitor in the news aggregation business, has retained CooperKatz as its PR agency of record.

Topix.Net aggregates news in 150,000 categories, from Janet Jackson to the Red Sox to the 07974 zip code. The service crawls about 9,000 sources every thirty minutes, and attracts two million unique visitors and eight million page views per month, according to Rich Skrenta, Topix.Net CEO and founder. The company is competing against Google News, Yahoo News, CNN, and other news sources.

This is the second company that the agency has won through the personal blog maintained by its VP of client services, Steve Rubel.

Rubel held an interview with Skrenta on the blog, called Micro Persuasion, and then met the firm's VP of marketing face-to-face at a conference. When Skrenta was looking for a PR firm, he met with Rubel and principals Andy Cooper and Ralph Katz, before signing up the firm. Neither Skrenta nor Cooper would disclose a budget for the account.

"[When] we hired CooperKatz, the deciding factor was because of Steve's blog," Skrenta said. "It's not that we're pursuing a blog PR strategy, but because of what we're doing with disruptive online media."

Ben Billingsley, manager of client services, will run the account's day-to-day activities. Billingsley, who joined the company from Trylon Communications, found out about the open position from Rubel's blog. Rubel will provide strategic leadership.

Despite the competition with Google News, Topix's largest revenue source comes via Google's ad network.

Skrenta said that the biggest challenge facing Topix.net right now is its messaging, and that it tapped CooperKatz for the standard gamut of PR services, like the elevator pitch and traditional media outreach.

"We have a core-messaging problem. It's not immediately apparent [to visitors] what we do," Skrenta said. "If you say, 'We do everything,' people hear it and say, 'You do nothing.' "

Google News, Skrenta said, is a single-page news experience, whereas he sees Topix.net as a much deeper experience.

"Google is a great company, and they're doing a lot of stuff," Skrenta said. But, unlike web search, which is a winner-take-all scenario, Skrenta said that users will check out more than one news source and Topix.net's goal was to give readers a resource they couldn't find elsewhere.

Cooper said the firm is currently working on conducting a strategy session with the news aggregator.

"Then we'll jump in and help them position themselves," Cooper said. "We know they want to become much more broadly known to consumers."

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