Social Networking

Digg Broadens News Offerings in Effort to Go Mainstream

It has worked for geeks, but can the popularDigg technology news site — an enormous online water cooler that attracts masses of readers who determine the top and most-viewed article rankings — surface with success in mainstream news?

Fans of Digg, which has grown to rival other Internet news giants such as Google and Slashdot, say that bringing a wider variety of news into the mix is a natural evolution for the social-networking-style news site.

Users will now have more control over what they see on their customized Digg pages, according to Digg Founder and Chief Architect Kevin Rose, and in mid-July new tools will offer a visual overview of every story coming into the site as well.

“It allows people to dive in and see what’s hot — what’s happening on the site,” Rose told TechNewsWorld.

Brand New Diggs

Digg folds social networking into its editorial selection of stories aggregated from around the World Wide Web, allowing users to recommend stories of their choosing to friends or the user community at large, or to bury a story in the back pages of Digg’s index.

The new Digg categories — World & Business, Entertainment, Videos, Science and Games — align with readers’ interests, according to Rose. Coverage of the recent Entertainment Electronics Expo (E3), for example, overwhelmed Digg with video and visits, he said.

“A lot of of the new categories like that are based on what they want,” he continued. “We’ve been blowing them out into their own dedicated sections.”

All About Users

Although some technical imperfections remain, Digg effectively takes editorial control away from a few and gives it to many, former Oregon State University Open Source Lab associate director and current CEO of software company JanRain Scott Kveton said.

“It’s interesting to watch it evolve,” he told TechNewsWorld. “We don’t know where this thing is going, and neither does Digg. However, Digg is growing because it’s responding to user needs and expanding its scope to attract a greater audience. As the tools and paradigms get sorted out, Digg will be a force of social reporting to reckon with.”

As Digg is expanding into the wider world of Internet news and content, the market for user participation networks may be undergoing similar growth, Kveton added.

“The model of user-centric and user-driven content is one that will be making a big push in the coming months,” he said. “We saw it with Craigslist — we see it with Digg. New technologies that allow people to control their personal identities, as well as engage more easily with people, are quickly gaining momentum.”

Editorial Control

There is no shortage of Digg imitations on the Web. Netscape, for instance, relaunched as a user-driven content site last week. It is difficult, however, to duplicate the truly democratic structure of Digg, according to Kveton.

“I think any site that is editor-driven runs the risk of being taken over by egos,” he remarked. “We’ve seen it with Slashdot — and from the looks of Netscape’s new Digg knock-off, they are headed in the same direction. I think Digg is less likely to run into that from the pure nature of the application.”

Digg’s Rose, for one, said it would be “impossible” for Digg to be taken over by its editors or any group other than the collective whole.

“We’ve set up the system so it has to be user-driven,” he said. “Every story on the site is submitted by users. They submit the title and description. It’s up to them to determine what is on the front page.”

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