The Internet offers an unlimited and broad platform for presenting information, and topic pages are a way of utilizing that large range to make a presentation that attracts readers.
With so much news out there and so much information to be read, topic pages offer a somewhat clear channel into the news site. “Instead of trying to lure people to a home page with a variety of general interest news stories, sections of a news site are built out with deep content in each to serve the more particular interests of people within the publication’s broader audience.”
Topic pages can revolve around anything from people to places or subjects to events, but they offer people a way to look at the news and follow anything they find interesting.
Because they’re centralized around just one topic, topic pages have to include a range of links and ways to interact with the site to keep it from becoming dull. The levels of interaction offers readers a way to become as involved with a topic as they want.
The information intake is all up to the user, but the topic page has just about all of that information in one simple place.
Also, because of the news links and archives, readers can search through other news on the main site that catches their eyes, but the main draw is that one topic that they continuously find interesting and continuously come back to the topic page to follow.
Because of information overload caused by constant Internet access, topic pages are a way for news organizations to draw the largest audience possible. By offering an alternative way to stay informed, a way with a more streamlined flow for chugging information, news sites can reach out to people who would otherwise throw their hands up and say, “To hell with being ‘informed!'”
Topic pages also vary in the way that content is presented. The Times Topics page for Florida includes news articles, multimedia and plenty of background information about the state, but it’s mostly just informative. Look at a Topix page for any city in Florida, however, and you’ll find polls, maps and trends, as well as an archive of news articles.
Different formats serve different purposes, and different formats reach out better to different audiences. But either way, a larger audience is theoretically being reached and becoming better informed.
So does the idea of a single page all about one topic sound anything like Wikipedia? Topic pages aren’t necessarily user-edited, and unlike Wikipedia pages they must include an archive of news articles on the topic, but both do offer an overview of a single subject in one simple location.
In essence, topic pages are created around context rather than time. Their success lies in providing enough useful content to keep an audience and also in providing content that’s interesting.
According to the Nieman Journalism Lab linked to above, topic pages are inspired by Wikipeida as much as anything else, and while they don’t offer a technological advance, they do introduce an entirely different philosophical approach to doing the news.
My delicious page: http://delicious.com/em19819