Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Netscape Goes Newsy with Digg-Like Voting and Editorial Control

As pointed out by CNET and others the new Netscape Beta is a combination of Digg-like content voting and commentary with a layer of editor-picked selections from the voted pool of content to highlight key items and occasional "anchor" comments from Netscape editors. Unlike Digg, which has built an intensely involved community on a relatively narrow range of tech-oriented topics, the Netscape Beta covers more broadly popular topics such as health & fitness, real estate, autos, celebrities and so on. The initial impact of this effort on traffic has been minimal - even discouraging, judging by Alexa stats. If you look at stats overlayed for both Digg and Yahoo's del.icio.us you can see that the Netscape beta intro was fueled almost entirely by users curious about the Netscape service who were already involved in social bookmarking. Thus far the user recommendations are pretty slim beyond the typical focus of Digg-eratis - leaving it up in the air as to whether Netscape.com natives will take the bait.

If nothing else Jason Calacanis has assembled in the Netscape beta a very attractive media property that mixes the latest best practices for community building through social bookmarking with editorial input from "anchors" who are active participants in news gathering within the social bookmarking model. In a recent story on North Korea's missile deployments the Netscape anchor covering this topic chimed in with some useful information about how Wikipedia is covering the story as a current event and a promise to dig for further background information and coverage. This commitment to agnostic news gathering to complement user efforts is potentially a huge plus, emulating the activities of a host of user-generated portals that link to news stories and other sources within a rich and sophisticated community-building tool. But there is also the possibility that this will act as somewhat of a turn-off to users who will come to depend on anchors more than their fellow users for input on relevancy.

We'll see how this develops in the eyes of users, but at first pass I think that Jason has greased it on the design front and has offered a twist on editorial input that could prove to be very powerful if their efforts offer the right mix of quality input and sensitivity to their communities.
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