Digg-ing for the Mainstream: Digg Founder Kevin Rose Takes a Big Leap from Tech-Land

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I digg, You digg
Digg also adds a social aspect to newsgathering and promotion. “Users add friends like they would on a myspace or a friendster,” says Rose, “but they are actually all engaged in doing an activity, and that’s digging.” Digg will actually syndicate the stories a person diggs out to other people on their friends list. He continues, “Multiple users will see what stories their friends are agreeing on, which ones they like, which ones they’ve submitted or commented on.” The social nature of digg profiles means that it may be possible for a particular story to find its way onto a circle of people joined by a common interest, delivering more interested visitors.

Digg also keeps track of every story a person has dugg, commented on, or submitted. Eventually it will be able to determine what a person’s interests are, recommend related stories, and connect them with other people who share those interests. “In the future, digg will know if you like stories about oolong tea and sports cars and be able to make recommendations of friends and stories based on your digging preferences,” says Rose, adding, “it will no longer be about making a connection with a friend based on just their picture alone, but more on your interests and things that you’re into.”

While traditional marketers might be a little nervous about a news site that gives users complete control of the moderation process, it’s really nothing to be afraid of. It means that only the content that’s most relevant and interesting to a mass audience gets promoted, while inaccurate, irrelevant, and spam postings will inevitably get buried. It makes the whole space a little more competitive, and almost guarantees that a site that gets on the digg front page contains quality content, something that’s vital for contextual advertising, SEO, and a regular audience anyway.

But while digg’s expanded scope is great for promoting mainstream content, it also means that digg is increasingly less useful for marketing sites containing niche and obscure content. As digg’s user base increases, the stories that get promoted will increasingly reflect the interests of a majority of users. Unless they find their way into niche-based friends lists, those stories which only draw a small audience could be left in the dust as far as the front page is concerned.

Bad Digg, No Cookie
The user-controlled nature of digg also means that unscrupulous (or over-enthusiastic) users will always try to game the system in some way. Digg has an anti-spam algorithm that detects bogus accounts created by a single user to digg a story onto the front page. “If anyone were to go create 75 or a hundred accounts right now and go digg the same story, nothing would happen to it,” says Rose. Digg is able to see unique IP addresses, and detect the traffic generated by an automated scripts by looking at digging patterns. “We see that happen all the time, to be honest.”

But the true moderators of the system are always the users. “The masses are really good at moderating down the irrelevant content,” Rose states. Just like digging, a user can bury a story with the click of a mouse. “You’ll see a story that is clearly spam, or really doesn’t belong, and the users will vote it down and flag it as spam. Once it hits a certain threshold of buries, it’s removed from the site. We like to enable the people that are actually using digg to put the same tools to remove the stories that they have to promote them.”


Digg Tools for Marketers

Marketers commonly ask Kevin how to make it easier for readers to submit their content to digg. “We’ve created kind of a toolkit for them where they can put “digg this” story links next to every article on their site,” he explains. The digg toolkit is available for the asking, and will help a site construct a “digg this” link. he reveals. “They can even pre-populate the subject and body of the submission and select a category, all passed through the command line when someone clicks through.”

In the future, digg plans to offer an API that will not only allow visitors to a third party site submit a story to digg, but will also allow publishers to replace their “digg this” link with an actual digg button that will let users digg a story without having to go to the actual digg site. The API will also let publishers get a list of the top stories on digg from their site, which they can then display however they like on their own sites. “We are actually building a developer-like section that’s going to be released with the API that’s going to explain all this in great detail,” says Rose.

Digg and Digg-a-like
Digg’s democratic newsgathering system has influenced the development of other media sites. Less than two weeks before the launch of digg 3.0, Netscape launched the beta version of their new home page, which features digg-like voting and promotion of stories. Unlike digg though, there are human moderators who exercise editorial influence over the stories on the site. But even with digg and digg copycats out there, link-based news sites will never replace normal media sites. “We’re still going to rely on all the great articles and content out there that are produced by traditional media,” says Rose.

Digg-likes are just another way of looking at the Internet, and another way of marketing to Internet users.

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