I’m a bit baffled by the news that came out over the weekend, where Topix.net raised $15 million to make their total amount of money raised to about $20 million (~$5 million in a previous round). The reason I’m baffled is because they now have about $20 million but I can’t see any original content on their site — all they do is aggregate everybody’s else’s content, let people leave comments and posts, and then display it. All that money in the bank and they don’t actually pay anyone to do any kind of news reporting or story writing.
Another news startup that’s being hyped more than any other startup in the past 6 months is Daylife, a “distributed news platform” that supposedly gathers and organizes news in ways that are relevant to the user, showing sources and quotes, etc. They recently announced their first round where they were funded by twice as many investors as it has employees (!!!) which I find just astounding. From what I’ve gathered about Daylife, their site is an automated aggregation and customization portal, with possibly a handful of editors making sure everything is greased and working. Again, lots of investors and money and no original content or news-breaking to show for it.
At 9rules we do a lot of the same stuff, but replace “news stories” with “our members’ blog entries”. We aggregate and cache content from hundreds of sources, organize it by topic, relevance, and freshness, and also allow people to post their own stories/content and comment. The main difference is that we’re a team of 3 who only work part-time on 9rules, we’re self-funded (turned down investments, not really needed) and don’t need to hire anyone else as we’re running things and growing just fine on our own. What I’d like to know is who is honestly needed to run these user-generated, completely automated, content aggregation portals? What are these Topix.net people doing besides watching the stories come in and populate themselves in their database? How many engineers and designers do these automated portals really need to hire — it’s like too many cooks in the kitchen, all bustling around, screwing things up. Set up the service, set up the algorithms, the design, the features, and then all you really need to do is make sure nothing breaks. Want to roll out some new features? Great! Write about 10 lines of PHP and pull some data out of the db in a slightly new way and you’ve got yourself a point release.
Topix.net doesn’t do anything special, they’re like Newsvine but with a shitty design and less community-centric features, where’s all this money going to? It’s obviously not “ease of use” or “user-centered functionality”. The way that Daylife is being hyped the site better revolutionize the way people around the globe communicate and comprehend the world around them all while cooking me eggs and singing to me. Where is this money going? Why do people actually need it?