By Greg Michael
The times, they are a changin’. The next shoe to drop came a few weeks ago, when Michael Arrington, a blogger on new Internet businesses www.techcrunch.com, caused a few more grey hairs at the Old Grey Lady (a nickname for the New York Times) when he said Digg.com looked like it was close to equaling The New York Times in one measure of online readership.
“Digg is looking more and more like the newspaper of the Web,” Arrington concluded in a post on his popular blog. According to Alexa.com, which tracks Web traffic, the news-aggregating site begun in late 2004 also has more online traffic than The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, or USA Today. This, reported by Gregory M. Lamb of The Christian Science Monitor.
Numbers, of course, can be counted several different ways, just ask your friendly local newspaper circulation manager. Whatever the most accurate readership figures turn out to be, this and other jaw-dropping new media news has caused a shockwave across media analysts, stockholders and the no-longer-ivory-towers of newspaper executives. Those tracking the future of the news media are asking their doctors for anxiety-reducing drugs.
The Times stories are of course, chosen picked by editors, journalists trained to decide what is “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” (and supports Hillary’s politics) as the Times’s slogan promotes. At Digg, visitors recommend items they find of interest online. Other Digg visitors then vote for the story by clicking “digg it” or disapprove of it by clicking “bury story.” Items that are “dug” the most become the top stories on the entry pages. Stories that receive too many “bury it” votes drop off the site. Digg is among a growing group of Web sites leveraging “social interaction” made famous by MySpace, YouTube and WordPress to news gathering. The site grabbed more attention last month when it expanded from tracking only technology news to such topics as world and business news, science, entertainment, videos, and gaming.
That move came just as media giant AOL announced plans to give its Internet portal www.netscape.com a drastic makeover, turning it into a similar visitor-powered news site (though Netscape says some human editors will monitor the site). Today, readers can choose between the unedited Digg and the edited NY Times models.
www.digg.com is simply tapping the “wisdom of the crowd,” says Kevin Rose, the founder and chief architect of Digg. That phrase is taken from a 2004 book by James Surowiecki, “The Wisdom of Crowds,” which argues that, in the right circumstances, the collective knowledge and expertise of a large group of people lead to better decisions than those made by individuals and what is becoming clear to many, elitists with political agendas. “I think people will flock to sites like Digg to supplement their traditional news diets,” says JD Lasica, cofounder of Ourmedia.org, which also lets visitors post and share their original videos, photos, artwork, and writing.”Digg started on a shoestring a year and a half ago, and it’s astonishing how popular it’s become in such a short time,” says Lasica, a former editor at the Sacramento Bee who now writes about online media. “Like most big ideas, it starts with a ‘duh’ realization – that users want to be part of the editorial process, and that readers want to see news stories from a wide range of sources.” He continues, “Like it or not, most people just want to read a story and don’t really care which news organization first reported it.”