In The Field

Emerging tech: not yet diggin it?

Have you ever used news aggregator sites like Digg, Slashdot or Reddit? This was the question posed to EmTech attendees this morning, during a panel discussion with three founders of popular social media sites — Kevin Rose of Digg, Tariq Krim of NetVibes, and Garrett Camp of StumbleUpon. Thanks to live audience voting using our interactive name tags, the MIT audience revealed that 61% have yet to try user-driven news services.

Is this supposedly tech-savvy audience behind the times? Or have these sites yet to reach beyond the niche audiences that post and comment on specialized content? Not so, say the panelists, preferring to see their users as early adopters. And the numbers back them up.

Kevin Rose claims that Digg has 20 million unique visitors a month. Compare this to 69 million unique visitors to Facebook during August, and a whopping 210 million visitors to Wikipedia, and its clear that social networking and user generated websites are unstoppable. Back in 2004 explains Rose people didn’t believe they could have control over the content on a news homepage. Now he says Digg has more page hits than the New York Times.

All the sites are evolving beyond ‘just text’ by adding photos, video, audio and flash. They are also getting into ‘microblogging’ services like twitter which allow users to post short status updates (where you are, and what you are doing right now) that are sent to your friends cell phones. Rose has recently helped to launch Pownce, which is a way for friends to share news stories they are reading with each other.

And what about those late adopters at MIT? Kevin Rose explains to me that there is still a lot of work to be done attracting non-techie users. “My mum and dad don’t have a Digg account,” he admits. “There’s a reason for that.”

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