Posted by: Rob Hof on September 24, 2008
After months and months of rumors that it would get acquired, the collaborative news site Digg has apparently dug in for the long haul and raised a third round of funding. There’s no word on the valuation of the company, a hot (and controversial) topic for a long time now, but Digg raised a sizable $28.7 million. According to CEO Jay Adelson, the money will be used for the largest expansion effort in the company’s history. Here’s the list of plans from the release:
* Hiring the staff needed to accelerate Digg product and feature rollouts, including more ways to consume the over 16,000 stories and other content submitted to Digg everyday, deeper category and topic content views, and additional ways to discover and customize content;
* More than doubling the Digg staff within the next 12 months – from 75 today to over 150 by December 2009;
* Kicking off Digg’s international growth strategy and plans to expand Digg into other languages;
* Moving to a new larger corporate headquarters in San Francisco in early 2009 that more than triples the existing Digg headquarters space;
* Investing in brand and market development programs;
* Investing in publisher analytics and more sophisticated tools for publishers.
Most of these sound promising, though a new triple-size HQ in San Francisco and a 150-person staff make me think of the term “burn rate,” and not in a positive way.
But to get to the point of my headline question, what I’d like to see is Digg using its pretty awesome volunteer army of Diggers in a way that appeals to a much broader audience—one that includes me. I’ve complained before that I don’t find Digg as useful as I think it could be, and I haven’t changed my mind. Even if stories with many Diggs today, such as New dad Clay Aiken comes out of closet and PETA Wants Ben and Jerrys To Use Human Breast Milk, appeal to other folks more than to me, I’ve already seen them elsewhere anyway because they’re all over many online news pages. I think Digg can do better to reduce the randomness of what appears and help come up with more useful items on particular topics that I haven’t seen anywhere else.
I’m also not yet seeing a lot of significant advertisers flocking to the site. On the main page today, for instance, I see precisely two ads. One is for Snorgtees, funny T-shirts modeled by bosomy young women. These ads are ubiquitous on many Web 2.0 sites—that is, relatively low-value. The other is for True featuring, c’mon, bosomy women again (a photo from which I’ve gratuitously included here as proof) who supposedly want to engage in online chat. I’ve also seen these ads in such low-value ad venues as Yahoo’s email pages. With a large and engaged audience and a number of specialized categories such as Tech, Science, Sports, and Entertainment, it seems like Digg should be able to target people a little better than that and thus attract more lucrative mainstream advertisers.
I don’t mean to dump on Digg quite so much. It’s a service that a lot of people obviously like, and it has a lot of potential. But given that Digg’s traffic apparently has plateaued as new rivals such as Yahoo’s Buzz have risen, I hope that some of the money will be spent on the basics of making the site more useful to many more people.