HP Victory: One Small Step for Bloggers, One Giant Leap for the Blogosphere

The other day I posted about a friend, Thomas, who was caught in a customer service nightmare with HP. I won’t rehash the story as it was told here. In fact, I can tell you that much information was omitted (mostly inadvertently) and I don’t regret the story going to the front page of Digg at all. Sure, the Diggers were horrible in their behavior and I’m making a week out of that topic alone. However, I knew that that would probably happen going in as I watched the Digg numbers climb to the promotion threshold.

However, the point was to get eyeballs at HP and we did. Digg was the means to the end and though it was hard, there was no better way of making sure HP saw the story.

Recapping the story, Thomas misinterpreted the ship date on his HP laptop and did not realize the computer would be shipped on February 28 (today). This set him back but he figured that he could have HP change the shipping method to overnight in order to get the computer before he headed out of town on Monday. In communicating this wish, HP did not in any way accommodate him and in fact, threw up walls to push him off to other departments and representatives.

I made a big deal about that kind of behavior on this blog. To me, customer service does not always say that the customer is always right, but does work with the customer to find a tack that will please, primarily the customer, but also the service provider. In this process, that did not happen.
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The Digg Bury Effect

If you’ve got praise for Microsoft. If you endorse Republican policies. If you believe in helping people optimize their website using SEO. If you have anything positive to say about Netscape, Reddit or Yahoo! Suggestions – it’s time to stop relying on Digg for traffic.

Digg has come under increasing fire as they continue to tread deafly through the internet world. Kevin Rose inspires the entire organization to arrogance that carries through to corporate policies and down to the Digg Mob that buries stories it doesn’t like simply because they don’t like them.
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An Entrepreneur's View: 5 Things Digg needs to do or it will die in 2008

I was guest blogging for my friend Aaron Brazell who writes Technosailor. We live near each other and run into each other at Starbucks living the Bedoin lifestyle.

We talk alot about the techology scene and I made the comment that Digg would be dead or made irrelevant by next year. So he challenged me to write about it on his blog.

The original post is here.

I did a repost below to read the article as an alternative:

The Future of Web Apps (FOWA) conference this week and Kevin’s presentation “The Future of Crowd Generated Media” got me thinking about how long Digg might last or stay relevant.

Granted, Jason Calcanis wrote a month ago about how Digg would “die a death of 1000 cuts”. He is right that they own the “Young Tech Male” or YTM demographic and it is hard to go beyond that group. I subscribe to Netscape and the quality of articles are dramatically different. Netscape has far fewer votes but the news is real and relevant (their interface just needs work).

The death of Digg will not be 1000 cuts but because of its failure to extend and protect its brand. So much time has been spent on covering them and how cool they are that they have ignored the fact that there is no reasonable way it can meet its revenue goals.

Jason does a good analysis of the deal and I agree on the valuation. To quote directly:

“The real challenge for Kevin and Co. at digg now is that they probably raised their $8.5m round at 60-80M post-money. That means that the latest round of investors are going to look for 10-20x that amount as an exit. That’s a 600M -1.6B exit. That means they have to get to $30-50M in revenue. That means that Kevin is right when he says they have no interest in selling the company–they’ve got 4-5 years of work to get to those revenue numbers… start building the sales for now because to hit those numbers you need a 20-person sales team.”

Kevin Rose says that they have not interest in selling and that is smart. Unfortunately, in 4-5 years Digg will be irrelevant so he has about 1-2 years to make it work for an exit. You are seeing the beginnings of chinks in the armor. Friends list or no friends list, spammers, censorship, gaming the system and a lot more. Digg did not invent “social voting”, Slashdot did and Digg only got popular because the YTM saw this as a better venue to troll and trash each other. Their community is powerful (900K as of this writing) and the “Digg effect” is far reaching for what geeky things they find interesting.

In fact, every new site that adopts “social voting”, Netscape included, has been profiled as “taking the Digg approach”.

So is Digg going to become a verb like Xerox or Tivo and lose its brand equity?

In order to save this company and keep it going here are the five things I would do in the next 12 months to maintain Digg’s leadership:

#1 – Don’t fight the Digg Clones – Own them – There are Digg clones popping up all over the place. Why not screen them and make them niche sites within the digg community. Similar to a blog network (like B5 Media). This will create a niche army of targeted sites. Digg has created a brand for the Young Tech Male so it is going to be near impossible to break away from that perception. It needs this to stay on top.

#2 – Do a deal with MySpace – These are your future users and huddled masses looking for ways to make MySpace more relevant. The Digg model for artists, MySpace blog entries and news could add a whole new dimension to the ugliest site in the world. The revenue share could be gigantic.

#3 – Create a relevance metric for contributors – We should know that there is more weight on a submission from a 50 year old PhD with expertise in that topic than a pseudo-intellectual 16 year old.

#4 – Hire topic editors – Now, we don’t want to run the risk of paying Digg members to submit. This is quite the opposite. We want new people who can help monitor and own a topic to add value, prevent bias and . Social voting is great but there must be oversight or the “Wisdom of Crowds” will turn into the “Wisdom of Mobs”.

#5 – License the Digg software to major news outlets and Fortune 500 companies – Let’s face it, traditional media can’t keep up. Some are just now finding blogs and a limited few are experimenting with the Social Voting/Digg approach. Why not have Digg show them how to do it and take ad money and license revenue from the deal? Dell’s new site should have been running a Digg system feeding back to the mothership. In this case, it just borrowed the concept, baked it up and served it to customers. Digg not included….

Otherwise, if things like this are not done in the next 12 months, Digg will be outdone by a site that is cooler and sucks the core “Diggers” to the new site.

If you were the entrepreneur in charge of Digg, what would you do?

I look forward to everyone’s feedback.

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