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February 21, 2008

Rethinking Net video: The Frenzy of Diggnation Fans

by Josh Bernoff

Digg1_3 When Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht invited me to watch their live Diggnation podcast recording in St. Louis (we were both there to connect with some of Anheuser Busch's marketing staff) here's what I imagined: a camera set up in a bar with two guys talking, and patrons walking by and wondering what was up.

Boy was I wrong. Here's what it was really like:

300 rowdy, screaming people crammed into a performance space, cheering, interrupting, and grooving on being in the same room with somebody they admire. Love. Are into. Kevin and Alex got a treatment that wouldn't have seemed unusual for Sacha Baron Cohen or Jennifer Jessica Simpson.

Who are these guys?

Kevin was an on-air personality on TechTV and created Digg, the site where people vote on the news stories they consider most worth reading. The Diggnation podcast is an outgrowth of that site, an on-air review of the stories that matter to Digg members. It's part of a lineup of shows put on by Revision3, run by Kevin's ex-TechTV crony Jim Louderback.

But what it really is, is two guys on a couch, drinking and shooting the bull with the tens of thousands of people they know care about the same things as them -- which means tech, but also other news. Among the stories Kevin and Alex highlighted this week were the new Indiana Jones trailer, the death of the HD DVD format, and . . . Castro's retirement. Yup. They think a new government in Cuba is cool. Not as cool as Indiana Jones, but close.

Flush your idea of digg's audience down the toilet. First, all they had to do was announce they were coming to Saint Louis and hordes of people people showed up. I met or heard about people who drove all the way from Kansas City (four hours) and Minneapolis (more like ten). The audience was about 25% women. And while it was dominated by 21-30 year olds, you would be hard pressed to call these folks technogeeks. These were just people who enjoyed being part of an idea -- the idea of a guy on the net saying and doing whatever he feels like.

Diggnation's sales manager told me they charge $16K for a sponsorship. Kevin and Alex talk about the sponsors on air, like Johnny Carson used to do, but with a lot more profanity (and real enthusiasm). There is no focus group. There is just a guy who knows what his audience wants -- because, after all, he has a Web site where they vote on it.

Do you think big media can really get their heads around this? Any of it? I don't think so.

Note: I'm embedding last week's podcast since this week's isn't edited yet. When it comes out I'll replace it. Now you can see what I saw (below). Profanity included.


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MG Siegler

Is Jennifer Simpson a hybrid of Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Simpson?

Social Media Marketing

What happened to the $300 million sale plan for Digg? Since you were with them, do you have any idea about it? I would really like to know.

Josh Bernoff

We didn't talk about their finances -- Kevin never comments on stuff like that. Kevin and Alex seemed a lot more interested in having a good time than selling Digg -- I'm sure that's somebody else's job.

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