InvespBlog has published what it claims is an interview with a top Digg user - someone who has a 34% success ratio in getting submitted stories to the home page of Digg. The Digg user isn’t named - he or she says “I have a reputation to withhold” (we know what they meant).
In the interview the user talks a little about how he’s able to get stories to the home page of the Digg news site and drive significant traffic back to the destination, despite the increasing popularity of the site. There isn’t much that will surprise people, the user simply does a lot of networking and reciprocal voting with other top users.
But the user also claims to charge for his services. A submission is $300-$500 based on the “quality of the article,” with no additional “promotion.” If you want your article promoted it’s a flat $700 fee. An additional $500 is charged if it gets to the home page. That’s a grand total of $1,200 for a home page story, and you don’t even get guaranteed results.
Digg knows this kind of manipulation goes on, and wages a never-ending battle to try to keep spamming to a minimum. It seems to have worked in keeping organized spamming schemes from making any real progress. But on an individual level there isn’t much Digg can do to stop top users from selling their influence.
Way back in 2007, Netscape even tried paying top Digg users directly to defect to their new service, so there is no denying that you can make money by being good at spotting a likely popular story.
One thing this tells me is that Digg should strongly consider placing clearly labeled advertisements within the news stories. Even as paid ads they’ll get a ton of traffic and Digg can charge accordingly. TechMeme, a tiny site in comparison, has done this successfully for some time. If Digg can’t stop its users from making a little money on the side, they may as well get in on the game.