Readers want to know what you Digg

People in the know are really digging Digg.

Digg leads the pack among the new and increasingly popular social-media websites. Like competitors, StumbleUpon, Reddit and others, Digg lets users vote on what its community should be reading.

Traffic rose about 330% to 5.6 million visitors in September, from 1.3 million the prior September, according to measurement service ComScore Media Metrix.

"People are really interested to see what other people are reading and are getting hooked on social media," says Greg Sterling, an analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. "On conventional news sites, the most popular and e-mailed stories are the most-trafficked areas. Digg is about doing that for everything."

How Digg works: Registered users submit Web links to of articles, videos or podcasts they like. Submissions show up in an "Upcoming Stories" area, where other members can find it and "Digg it" by clicking on a voting tab. Popular items move out to Digg's front page.

"People realize they now have a voice in deciding what is news," says Digg founder Kevin Rose, 30.

Rose is the public face of Digg as the co-host of the popular podcast Diggnation, where he and Alex Albrecht sit in front of a laptop webcam and discuss popular Digg stories. Diggnation, which averages 300,000 viewers per show, is the No. 1 podcast in the technology area of Apple's iTunes Store.

Rose oversees the look of Digg, while handing off business duties to CEO Jay Adelson, who spends much of his time running the San Francisco-based business from his home in rural New York. Adelson raised $10 million from venture-capital firms for Digg. Adelson and Rose also operate the Web video showcase site Revision3.

"We filled a void," Adelson says of Digg's success. "The Internet today, with all the media out there and all the news sources, is far too much information for anyone to handle on their own. We're arguing that the collective wisdom of the masses is a fantastic way to filter through it all."

Digg started as a notion from Rose about online polling. He wanted a site where "Netizens" could vote on their favorite stories of the day. He started the site in December 2004, and it quickly took off.

A recent new feature on Digg: Users can check out personal profiles to see what their friends have "dugg" and commented on. "It's a different way to slice the data," says Rose. "A different way to cut through what your friends are doing."

Websites big and small often have little buttons next to their stories asking readers to bookmark stories at Digg, and other sites. Social network Facebook has even gotten into the act, letting members post news stories to their personal profiles with the click of a button.

Digg offered the buttons first. Analyst Sterling calls it an "ingenious" marketing vehicle. "People discovered that when they put the button on their site, they'd get on Digg, and that directly translated to more traffic. It became a self-perpetuating cycle."

Digg says about 100 million buttons alone were posted by websites this summer.

Businesses dig it, too

It's not just the masses who are digging Digg. Businesses have discovered that mentions on Digg can directly translate into higher website traffic and visibility in search engines.

Social media sites such as Digg are "great influencers," says Chris Winfield, president of 10e20, a firm that works with companies on search marketing campaigns. "Getting a bunch of Diggs is huge."

Seth Godin, a veteran marketing guru and author, devotes several pages to "Getting Dugg" in his upcoming book, Meatball Sundae. "It doesn't cost anything, and it's a great way to get your message to a large group of people," says Godin. Digg, he adds, "dramatically amplifies" an old standby for most effective advertising: word of mouth.

A recent search marketing conference in New York offered several sessions on how businesses can work with Digg and other social media sites to help their sites rise in Google rankings.

"It's a validation of Digg, you can't deny that," says Adelson of the search marketing attention. But Adelson says his 37-person staff works overtime making sure most of the methods, such as getting people to click the "Digg this" button over and over, won't work. "What gets something to the top of Digg is when hundreds of people think it deserves to be there, period. Not by gaming the system."