Trying to tame the new social media space with an effective advertising model is a daunting task for any platform in the social media space. Add the desirable real-time stream of consciousness component to the mix and you've even got the big boys like Google and Bing salivating all over the digital landscape. Tinker is tinkering around with monetizing Twitter, a feat that even their founders can't figure out. And now you have DIGG, the slightly dated social bookmarking site trying to reinvent itself by posting ads to their news content delivery process. Sounds a little like 'what's old is new again?'
Wasn't one of the reasons we were so attracted to the social media space due to our desire to escape the world of push advertising? We preferred the opinions of our peers and favored the "wisdom of the crowds" versus the traditional mass output of brand messaging from the media moguls. Yet, just as comfortable as we have become in this brave new world, we find ourselves being approached by the hackneyed ad campaigns of the past where once again some one wants to "spoon feed us" the pablum we thought we grew out of.
Digg, desperately trying to latch on to a relevant and sustainable business model, recently rolled out a new ad platform which masks ads as user-submitted content and allows users to vote ads up or down the same way they do with news stories. According to the kool-aid Kevin Rose is trying to sell the masses, the site is in need of a general overall. But what the exact changes are beyond this new advertising format is unclear. In a short interview conducted with Mr. Rose by TechCrunch this past May, there was more obfuscation than clarity.
What Digg does wants us to believe is that the Digg Ads will give diggers more control over which advertisements are displayed on the site. The more an ad is dugg, the less the advertiser will have to pay. Conversely the more an ad is buried, the more the advertiser is charged, with the possibility of potentially pricing it out of the system.
Some power users are already skeptical as to how this will change Digg's appearance and wonder if it'll actually work, considering how easy it is to 'bury' any kind of content on the site. However Digg'sMike Maser already attracted big name advertisers like Intel, and supposedly according to Digg's spokesperson, Miker Maser, the "ads will finally give advertisers an opportunity to get direct, immediate feedback...(and )our goal for Digg Ads is to create a better experience by giving (the user) more control over the advertising content that appears on Digg."
So is this new service assisting the digger or the advertiser? 'Control' seems to be the major issue here. While diggers or potential consumers use the system, Digg needs the advertisers to sustain the system. By allowing diggers to continue to do what they are familiar with, Digg seems to be giving the user more of what they are used to. But at the end of the day, isn't this really just like trying to place that old round peg into a square hole? Aren't ads disguised as content more or less like putting that proverbial lipstick on a pig?
In the new scheme, Digg Ads will appear interspersed with stories in the main listing section of a page (what Digg calls 'the river.') The 'advertorial' content will look and feel similar to regular Digg 'editorial' content, but will be marked as sponsored.' It may link to stories, video trailers and/or independent product reviews. The goal here is supposedly to give advertisers a way to present content related to their brands and receive immediate feedback on whether it’s relevant to the Digg audience, or not. Here’s an example of what the ads will look like:
Digg sample advertorial ad
The critics (myself included) believe that this system gives Diggers the power to censor each and every ad they see. Won't the 'bury brigade' simply bury each and every ad, especially when they are armed with the knowledge that this is adding more to the advertiser's budget?
Since Digg’s 'display advertising' isn’t going away, isn't this 'content advertising' just another revenue stream for the company? Yes, advertisers are getting frustrated with the lack of the effectiveness of CPM advertising. But by injecting their brands into the user base, they are in my estimation blurring the lines of true journalism and simply turning the clock back to a time when Mad Men 'pushed' their message out to the masses. And in a world that has finally gotten use to deciding what they will or not be told about a certain brand, I don't think that the new Digg ad model is about break a new mold.