Red Bull, GE Ecomagination, and Electronic Arts were among the first brands to create official Digg accounts in the run up to the site's big relaunch last week.
Digg users who follow those accounts may see stories the advertisers have "dugg" embedded in their regular "My News" content stream - a continuously updated blend of content from users, media brands, and corporate marketers that they follow. The mechanism is roughly equivalent to the Facebook news feed or the Twitter activity stream, though the emphasis is on sharing content rather than communicating directly.
The My News stream - and the opportunity for corporate brands to be followed by users on Digg - has emerged as part of the site's new focus on personalized content curation (i.e. "follows" and "followers") over popular aggregation ("most diggs").
In addition, brands that opt to create free Digg accounts can import feeds of their own content. For instance, every 10th story dugg by GE Ecomagination comes from the company's "GE Reports" feed of GE-related content, said Chas Edwards, chief revenue officer at Digg. Meanwhile, EA has incorporated feeds of its own content from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
"GE is digging a lot of things they think the eco-designer or eco-consumer might be interested in," Edwards said.
To create awareness of the profile, Edwards noted GE is using ads on Digg to drive people to the Ecomagination profile and, hopefully, follow it.
Whether they will do so en masse remains to be seen. GE has added only about 30 followers since late Friday, growing from 714 to 743 followers as of noon Eastern Standard Time on Monday. Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures recently created an account to promote its upcoming documentary, "Waiting for Superman," about failure in the U.S. education system. The account had only 8 followers at noon Monday, and had created two "diggs."
Accounts for EA and Red Bull have accrued considerably more followers since the relaunch - 2,100-plus each. That may speak to the site's predominantly male audience.
Experimenting With Display Ads
Digg's approach to display advertising also changes considerably with the relaunch.
IAB standard display advertising has played a significant role in the site's monetization efforts to date. With the relaunch, Digg has deemphasized those ads considerably - reducing the number of IAB ads to one per page.
At the same time, it has increased space available to its "Digg Ads" formats. Introduced last year, Digg Ads are sponsored placements that look and feel like regular Digg stories. They are distinguished from organic content by a yellow-highlighted "Sponsored by" label beneath the story.
A Digg Ads placement on the site today, posted between the second and third story, promotes the new season of National Geographic Channel show "Border Wars." A second Digg Ads placement is intended to appear below the fold on users' My News streams, but ClickZ could not cause one of those placements to load. Digg said the below-the-fold placement insertion has been "up and down" since the relaunch.
Digg claims click-through rates on Digg Ads are 10 to 15 times what it sees on IAB banner ads. When it introduced the formats in 2009, execs said Digg Ads would deliver more than half the company's revenue by mid-2010. They haven't quite achieved that to date, measuring approximately 40 percent of total revenue, according to Edwards.
"In September, we undoubtedly will be there," he said. "We're reducing the inventory for banner ads and continuing to sell premium ourselves."
Likewise, the company is behind schedule on plans to roll out an ad network based on Digg Ads. According to Edwards, the company has made steady progress signing publisher partners, and a handful of large sites have given the green light. The network was initially planned for the second half of this year, but it is now expected to roll out in 2011.
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Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.
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