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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 June 2006, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Readers are digging the news online
By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website

Readers choose the most popular stories of the day
A technology website that is helping transform the way people consume news online has just released a new version designed to widen its appeal.

"I read a newspaper every morning; I enjoy reading the columnists and the editorial," Digg chief executive Jay Adelson told the BBC News website.

"But 20 minutes later I am on Digg reading what hundreds of other people believe to be the most interesting stories around the world in real time."

Digg has turned traditional news practice on its head by giving the users the power to choose their most popular stories from around the internet.

There are no editors cherry-picking content from news sites or blogs nor is there an algorithm, which drives Google's news service for example.

Users post stories from around the internet they like on the website for others to vote on or "digg" . The more "diggs" it receives, the higher ranked the story on the website becomes.

"There is a place for the traditional method of consuming news and for the real time method," said Mr Adelson.

I think the relationship between us and traditional media is very important
Jay Adelson, Digg founder

The website has more than 300,000 registered users and close to nine million unique users every month.

Readers can recommend stories to other Digg users, or just look at the top stories of that day, week, month or year.

It is seen by many web adherents as a democratisation of news but some have questioned what would happen to the site if a particular lobby group started aggressively digging a particular news story.

Until now the focus of the website, described by its founders as a "geek news site" has been on technology news with stories on other topics "moderated down" by Digg staff.

But that has changed with new categories of stories including world, business, entertainment, science and gaming.

Mr Adelson said: "We knew from the very beginning and always intended to expand to other forms of content such as video and other types of news.


"It was matter of timing and infrastructure."

Kevin Rose, founder of Digg, said: "The users have really been driving a lot of this. We have seen stories submitted to Digg in areas such as world news and politics."

The success of Digg has potential implications for traditional media companies on the net who adhere to the more established practice of letting journalists and editors choose the running order or importance of stories.

Thumbs up
Readers' tastes drive the rankings of Digg

Digg intends to release a piece of software to allow third party companies to add a button to their site so readers can "digg" a story directly.

Mr Adelson said: "I think the relationship between us and traditional media is very important. It needs to continue to be symbiotic.

"The editorial process is very valuable. What we hope to do is drive people to these publications."

He added: "Historically we saw a publication model where when an article was published it would take some time before it would have an impact.

"But with Digg that impact is being felt in real time. The feedback loop closure is good for readers and for publishers."


Mainstream news operations like the BBC News website are also beginning to move towards giving readers more control over their news.

Readers can now monitor the most read and e-mailed stories in real time on the website and in the coming months will be able to personalise their news front page - with weather and selected sports news.

Mr Adelson said Digg was not a threat to online publishers.

"We drive traffic to publishers," he said.

The founders are convinced that the Digg model, which has proved so popular with technology fans, will also appeal to readers of more mainstream news.

"As the growth in popularity of the net continues, Digg will become more mainstream," said Mr Adelson.

"Sections like celebrity gossip had such a high demand for us to release", he added.

"The Digg concept of giving the audience unrestricted power to determine what is relevant and timely has taken off beyond my wildest expectations," said Mr Rose.

Digg is part of a wave of web services which are championing more freedom for users to change, share and manipulate content in a shift which has been dubbed Web 2.0.

Other pioneers in this shift include social bookmark site Delicious and photo community Flickr.

Mr Adelson said: "Kevin and I used to have conversations about the peer to peer world and social networking.

"We saw this mass user acceptance of collaborative filters to share information and knew that this could work for news too."

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