Information wants to be free. But Digg’s Kevin Rose is giving newsstands a run for their money
“What is news?” asks Digg.com creator Kevin Rose (front), and he’s got a point. “For the longest time, it’s just been the sum of a bunch of decisions by newspaper editors and TV producers.” Cue the little guy.
Somewhere between Brangelina and Beirut the future of news media in the digital age is emerging, and Digg is taking center stage in a way that even Dan “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” Rather can appreciate. The frequency is social.
Rose likens Digg to a newspaper crossed with a voting booth. Users find a story and either promote (“digg”) it or bury it. Content is corralled in various subject areas, from politics to tech, by user tagging, and users forge relationships based on their converging tastes. It’s the Daily Planet of Web 2.0, with every user starring as Clark Kent. “It’s changing the way we consume news,” offers Rose with characteristic understatement.
“Our users tell us they’re seeing a new way of gathering, sharing, and using information,” he explains. “Initially, it was all about finding stories and ‘digging’ them to the front page. Now, people are more interested in digging what their friends are digging. This causes chain reactions way beyond Digg, affecting Technorati and Del.icio.us and other sites. We’re seeing a mass pollination effect now with Digg. It’s pretty wild.”
Can Digg catalyze change for specific user communities, like political interest groups or professional associations? “Absolutely,” says Rose.
The Web has always been recognized as a buffet for news junkies, but it has long lacked the organizing power of a real-world newsstand. Now, thanks to Digg’s eponymous algorithmically driven news, it’s possible to tap the pulse of what Rose calls “a collaborative social filter for the news.” The result, as he is the first to admit, is a “unique and obscure” mélange of news stories. Unlike Slashdot, Digg story rankings are determined by the users. Unlike Google News, there’s a human face—many of them—behind the stories. New visualization features like Digg Stack and Digg Swarm will make its user-driven dynamics even more apparent.
Listening to Rose, there’s a sense that Digg isn’t done changing the way we will cook up our online media diets. What’s the endgame? How about a next-gen MySpace environment that ties users to ever more intimate ways of linking to their interests—and to likeminded friends who talk (and share content) among themselves? If Rose is right, we might soon be Digging much deeper. —Jeff MacIntyre
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