Can you be local from afar?

Can you be local from afar?
There were two developments this week from companies trying to get into the local information business from a distance. The first is from those wacky innovators at Google, who’ve come out with a beta version of local search. It works well enough at the beta level that local directory companies ought to be concerned, and local Websites would be smart to include it on theirs. The people at Google proved long ago (to me) that they can do what they say they can do, and this is no exception. Next will come paid listings, and everybody else will be out of luck. The only thing I don’t like about this is it’s strictly Yellow Pages stuff. That’s where the money is, so I don’t blame them, but I’d like to see Google take it further.

Of greater interest to local news entities is the introduction of, a California company that’s trying to provide local news from anywhere. Using spiders similar to Google, Topix searches local Websites and aggregates the local content. It isn’t perfect, but it works well enough that I think local stations should pay attention. One day somebody will do this with just video. What Topix is doing is aggregating news, and while I think it’s pretty cool, it can’t hold a candle to the ultimate wonder of RSS.

In both cases, zip code works a whole lot better than a city name.


  1. Topix offers an RSS feed for any city or zip code you enter.

    I’ve been using it for a few days. I like it in theory, but there are a couple of problems.

    I’ve set my RSS program to receive a Topix RSS feed of stories for Dallas. Today Topix only generated 8 stories. (Actually one story was presented from two different sources, so I really only got 7 stories.)

    Also, by the time stories get to Topix, they’re pretty old. You’ve probably heard them on the radio or seen them on TV. Don’t count on it for breaking news.

    But they’re on the right track. Let’s hope the service improves.

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