Newsweek.com’s Topics is a great idea, not executed

With its recent re-design (which I like), Newsweek.com cloned one of the lesser known, but truly incredible, parts of the New York Times website: an encyclopedia-like organization of its archives — including in most cases, an introductory overview — called “Topics,” that can be found at the easy-to-remember URL, http://topics.nytimes.com. Newsweek calls its clone Newsweekopedia but uses the Times-like URL: http://topics.newsweek.com.

That’s where all similarities end.

Newsweek broke cardinal rule #1 of building an encyclopedic resource — or anything that is “-opedia” -ish — they didn’t seed it properly. In fact, they barely seeded it at all. Compare, for example, the letter “H” on http://topics.nytimes.com to the letter “H” on http://topics.newsweek.com. The image below doesn’t do justice to the 1,000+ entries on the NYTimes site, but since Newsweekopedia has only one entry, I think you get the point.

Newsweek also broke cardinal rule #1 of anything you do on the web: Don’t claim to be something that is drop-dead simple to disprove, like, say, that you have an “unmatched knowledge resource.”

My geek friends have a word for something like this: FAIL. (But please, keep trying.)



  • Seems that the original entrant in this category is the Salon Directory. Like the rest of Salon, it’s not as great as it used to be. And like the rest of Salon, it was brilliant in its day.

  • Great point, Ted. I didn’t mean to suggest the NYT invented the concept. I wish every magazine- association- or company- website had one of the these, be they a wiki model or a staff built one. (Another post for another day.)