Interview With Digg CEO Matt Williams On Future Of Digg
Williams is extremely bullish on Digg. Traffic stabilized in January, he says, at about 20 million unique monthly visitors. The company has just 35 employees, he says, after 40% layoffs late last year. With the decreased burn rate the company is approaching cash flow positive, he says, and should get there this year. This is clearly a big priority for Williams, who is about to celebrate six months with the company.
But he also has big product plans for Digg, he says. “A year from now Digg will look very different. It will have a fantastic zeitgeist of the news product but it will also be many other things to news readers,” he told me.
That’s pretty vague and Williams isn’t saying much else about where Digg is going. But it’s clear that he’s planning yet another relaunch in the near future. Digg will remain a news aggregation site, he tells me, and notes that people still visit 4-6 sites per day for news. That’s an opportunity for Digg, he says. People today get a lot of news from people they follow on Twitter and Facebook, but that isn’t the whole solution.
He then spoke about the use of social networks and interest graphs to assist in finding news relevant to the user, presumably beyond just what your friends are digging or retweeting.
A customized news site has been a pipe dream for many failed startups. It’s just really hard to do. Partly because people consider news the stuff that everyone else considers news, so they know what to talk about around the water cooler. But also because it’s just really, really hard to figure out what people want to consume, and when.
If Digg gets this right, it’s a huge opportunity. If they don’t the show is probably over for them.
I also asked Williams about the difficulty in growing a startup when constrained by the competing goal of becoming cash flow positive. Former CEO Jay Adelson has told me that Digg became hyper focused on profitability during the recession a couple of years ago, and he probably cut too much fat and into the muscle. It was that period that Twitter grew dramatically and Digg lost status as an important news site.
Williams isn’t concerned, though, saying that cash constraints force good decisions. Once Digg figures out the winning product they can raise more cash to grow, if they want to.
I’m hoping to get Williams, Rose and Adelson in our studio next week to talk about the past and future of Digg at length. Would make a great show.