Popular social-bookmarking site Digg announced this week that there would be a new ad system introduced soon. Up until now users have continuously blocked ads on Digg’s pages or simply ignored them, with the end result being a consistent loss to Digg’s coffers. Now they’ve got a new plan; they’re going to let the users themselves vote up, or vote down, for each ad. The new system will inject sponsored submissions from companies seeking advertisement space directly into the voting pool with the rest of the submissions. This has never been done before, anywhere.
The move is not only novel but brazen, as it could easily fail should advertisers feel that submitting to the populace in such a way may be too risky. Since the plan calls for ads to be in the same voting stream as other content, users will be free to vote on them as well as comment on them. It’s fully expected that comments will be heavy, and harsh, beginning at the moment of introduction. The social-bookmarking community in general is known for being against ads, and Digg is no exception to that rule. In fact, many expect the backlash to be much worse from “diggers” than what would be expected at other similar sites. The site administrators, including Kevin Rose, are hoping that will change shortly afterward as the user-base becomes accustomed to the incursion.
The price per advertisement will be based upon the users’ vote; if the Digg community dislikes a particular ad, and buries it, then the company will have to pay more money to continue submitting their content. The basis for that idea is that if the users don’t like seeing the ad, then a company should have to pay more in order for Digg to force it on them. If users like an ad, which will show with up-votes, then the company responsible could pay pennies on the dollar compared to rates they may be used to paying for high levels of exposure. This new method of inclusion should also lead to companies relying more on actual content than exposure, in which case the everyday user is less hateful of the ads.
The financial outlook is not bright for Digg these days, as attempt after attempt to monetize the site have either failed or brought back mediocre earnings in the past. Digg simply cannot afford to continue hemorrhaging funds on a yearly basis; introducing ads to the voting system is the site’s best chance. Assuming the system actually works, it could potentially be a long-sought after win/win situation for all parties involved. The site could actually boast an income for once while advertisers pay less, and the users get to keep their Digg.