Speaking at the Building Blocks conference in San Jose today, Digg founder and chief architect Kevin Rose described his site as a "crazy madhouse of news flying around, 100 percent user powered." The Digg madhouse isn't yet a crazy quilt of ads aimed at increasing revenue, he noted when asked about getting to profitability.
"We could slap on lots of ads, and we could be profitable tomorrow," Rose said. He added that Digg is going to taking its time, guarding the user experience, keeping it fresh and light. Rose singled out new social content competitor Netscape as existing at the opposite end of the advertising user experience spectrum. "We have a path to profitability," Rose explained, without going into specifics. Digg received funding last year of about $3 million from the Omidyar Network, Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, Greylock partners and others. Like many other companies hatched in the Web 2.0 era, getting scale in users and engagement, not revenue, is the first order of business.
Lately Netscape headman Jason Calacanis has been trying to poach some of the top Digg submitters for his Digg-like site, which could introduce new costs for sites that rely on users to generate or power the content production.
Steve Gillmor asked Rose whether the page view model makes Digg vulnerable as a business in light of the RSS/syndication movement, allowing users to have the content they want delivered to them where they want it. Rose responded that he isn't concerned at this point. "Digg is a platform for users to share information, to see what friends are Digging and get recommendations," he said. It's also a platform for conversations, as many readers comment on stories, driving up the page counts.
Rose also said that Digg plans to mine user behavior data, so that the news service can recommend stories and connect people with similar interests. "Digg isn't about just helping users Digg," Rose said. "We must give something back to the user. We want to make extremely accurate suggestions for meeting new friends and discovering stories."