That the eventual Republican nominee for President will be Mitt Romney remains somewhat of a foregone conclusion, but the GOP’s Super PACs are still in the midst of one of the most intense seasons of attack ads in recent political history. Once the dust settles, their next target will certainly be President Obama. And Super PACs on the Democratic side will be waiting to return fire. And for Topix, and other hyperlocal sites, this means opportunity.
To capture some of the spending on campaigns acutely focused on key districts, Topix has launched Politix, a bipartisan site focused on local users’ opinions around issues and candidates. The site will aim to leverage Topix’s nationwide audience of 10 million users to solicit reactions to curated news items, topical questions, and sentiment polls.
Topix CEO Chris Tolles told Street Fight recently that Politix is different from from the network’s town-by-town aggregation-and-comments sites, in that there will be more editorial oversight and context around the issues and debates presented. He says that he wants the level of debate to be a little higher than on Topix’s local sites, which have been criticized in the past for enabling “vicious” comment strings.
“We’re not going for a huge amount of interpersonal back-and-forth,” said Tolles. “It’s more giving people a place to take a stand and make statements that stand by themselves in addition to the commentary. … The editor will come up with a set of questions like ‘Do you think Obamacare is constitutional?’ or ‘Do you think this health plan will hurt you?’ We’ll put it in front of our 10 million people and start getting throughput from that — as well as going after other people.”
“You’ll be representing where you’re from as you put your opinion forward, and where you’re from is a highly important piece of information for us.”
The editors at Politix won’t are “primarily going to be a curatorial force, as opposed to writing scoops about things,” said Tolles. He said that they will be there to provide analysis around existing content, rather than to do original reporting — at least at first. Each story has an embedded “call to action,” inviting the user to add their comments, which are then integrated into the site. Using a map feature, users can then get a sense of political sentiment in different parts of the country around specific issues. They can also share their political opinions from the site via social media, building up a “personal political platform.”
According to a release, the site will also provide a sort of clearinghouse, where voters can find where all the candidates running for office stand on particular issues. It will also allow users to endorse opinions from particular political leaders, professors, journalists, analysts and bloggers.
And while Tolles said there’s definitely a local component to to Politix, the product has been designed to have a “national feel.”
“It’ll be localized in the sense that we’re using that same technology,” he said. “You’ll be representing where you’re from as you put your opinion forward, and where you’re from is a highly important piece of information for us.”
David Hirschman is a co-founder at Street Fight.