Chas Edwards, chief revenue officer and publisher at Digg, is leaving the company in the wake of its ruinous relaunch. He'll join image-based ad network Pixazza in a similar role.
Update: Digg has also moved to reduce its headcount from 67 to 42 as part of a cost-cutting initiative. With the layoffs, which will affect more than a third of staff, the company hopes to achieve profitability next year, new CEO Matt Williams wrote in a blog post today.
Pixazza monetizes online images with transactional features and display advertising. Publishers have enthusiastically signed up, boosting its audience reach from 25 million in July to 40 million this month, according to Quantcast. The firm recently secured $12 million in funding, and is partially backed by Google.
Edwards' title is chief revenue officer and publisher development, and he has dual oversight of publisher and advertiser relationships. "His background uniquely qualifies him for both functions," Pixazza CEO Bob Lisbonne told ClickZ.
In a post to his personal blog, Edwards wrote of his new job, "My ultimate goal is to serve audiences by unlocking photo content as a revenue-driver, which helps both advertisers and publishers move their businesses forward."
Edwards has for the past 18 months led Digg's monetization efforts, an increasingly challenging prospect in the wake of an unpopular revamp in August. After a loud user revolt, the company apologized for disappointing the site's community and committed to bringing back several features it had killed off with the redesign.
It's unclear what impact the bungled relaunch will have on the site's advertising. For the moment, Digg appears committed to continuing its overall monetization strategy of engaging users with ads that ape its organic content experience. For instance, with a recent evolution of its year-old Digg Ads format, the company says it will automatically serve any ad a user "diggs" to friends who follow that person's feed.
At least one of Digg's new ad products appears not to be gaining momentum. In August the company began offering free sponsored accounts, allowing brands like Red Bull and GE to post and "digg" stories and to be followed by the site's regular users. After an initial bump in interest, some of those accounts now appear to be struggling. For instance, Red Bull and Electric Artists both quickly amassed more than 2,000 followers when their accounts launched in August. Two months later neither has surpassed 5,000.
Edwards said he will continue to serve Digg in an advisory capacity, supporting the company's ambitions for its ad platform.
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