It was around this time that Rose discovered an interesting dilemma in online news coverage. It seemed the larger media outlets were dominating both what news stories were of primary focus and how the stories were covered. Rose realized that if one wanted to find out more about a news story not covered on these sites, it required quite a bit of research. While the internet is meant to serve as a community resource, it was ironic that the community couldn’t control the coverage on what they wanted to read about. Thus, Digg.com was created as means of democratizing news and “leveling the playing field, giving everyone an equal voice.” The site offered users the chance to gather and post the stories they felt were of most importance along with the opportunity to vote on (or “dig”) the stories posted they felt were most compelling.
Rose’s idea was brilliant, no doubt, but launching such a site was not as easy as he hoped. Rose’s project was initially self-funded, and, in October 2004, he withdrew funds from what was supposed to be used as a downpayment on a house he was buying with his girlfriend. Needless to say, she wasn’t pleased. Next, Rose hired 10 freelance web developers for $12 an hour. He then paid an additional $1200 for the domain name “Digg.com,” the idea being that the stories posted on the site were “dug” up by members of the community, and eventually Rose had a viable product on his hands that he could use to entice investors. “You really can get off the ground with a few thousand dollars,” Rose claims. “Once we saw the reaction and growth then we had something to talk to different investors about. We could show them that we built this, here are the stats, here is the growth. Once you have that, it’s a lot easier for them to invest in your business. So I did that and everyone was interested.”
So interested, in fact, that Rose was able to land major investors including Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen and Pierre Omidyar’s (eBay founder) Omidyar Network and continues to build relationships with major corporations today. The site also continues to pick up momentum, forcing Rose to utilize larger and larger servers in order to accommodate the community’s interest to post and discuss their favorite new stories. Often times, the site is even able to break news thanks to Digg readers’ citizen journalism. “There was an incident, actually with the London train bombing, and someone uploaded a video to the site and it just happened,” Rose recalls. “It made the front page within 20 minutes after that.” Still, even with financial growth and the site’s growing popularity, Rose doesn’t feel he has “arrived” by any means. “I feel like we have a long way to go,” he says. “I don’t feel comfortable yet. You can see the growth in the months, where we have more servers and users.”
Perhaps in an effort to ease the stress of a demanding career and stay true to his online TV hosting roots, Rose added a video podcast series to Digg,com, better known as Diggnation. In it, Rose, along with former TechTV host Alex Albrecht, offer their take on the week’s biggest stories, events or just what seems to be on their mind at that given point in time. “Alex and I did a television show before and we knew we always wanted to do something like this. So we wanted to launch a broadcasting application on the website. We thought, ‘Let’s talk about culture stories and highlight certain news stories and hopefully people watch it.’ It was really like, ‘Let’s get together and do something fun.’” The show’s casual, silly tone not only serves to entertain the news hungry Digg community, but also adds a personal element to Rose’s site rarely found on other major sites. Rose may be steadily climbing the ranks as one of the most influential leaders on the web, but he’s also not above cracking open a beer, hanging out with his buddy or having a good laugh.
By Jillian Gordon