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Digg to Debut Ads Based on Your Vote

Digg joined the emerging trend of "social advertising" this week by announcing it will allow members to vote on its advertising, with the most popular ones getting increased exposure and costing less for the marketer.

"Digg Ads will give you more control over which advertisements are displayed on Digg," wrote a Digg staffer at the company blog. "The more an ad is Dugg, the less the advertiser will have to pay. Conversely the more an ad is buried, the more the advertiser is charged, pricing it out of the system.

"The platform will launch as a pilot in a few months, and it will be an ongoing work in progress... We're still in very early stages of working with advertisers and building the system, but we wanted you to be the first to hear about our plans," the staffer wrote.

Digg's move comes at a time when mobile commerce and social marketing are playing larger roles in the online advertising landscape.

While allowing users to vote on ads isn't new, it is emerging as a trend. Hulu, for instance, provides the opportunity for a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on ads. Facebook launched social engagement ads a year ago and Pluck and agency Razorfish followed suit, along with WidgeADs from Kickapps, Jeremiah Owyang, social media analyst for Forrester, told InternetNews.com.

"This is a becoming a big trend in advertising, social engagement ads, and it's interesting because even if an ad is voted down, that's a good thing. There's still engagement, people are paying attention to your brand," said Owyang.

Online advertising analyst Rebecca Jennings, also with Forrester, said the move allows Digg to generate some money without alienating its members. "Adding an element of consumer interaction allows consumers to feel that they are more in control, and that they can have a say if the ads are not relevant, which is likely to appeal to the Digg audience, who are generally very active in social media activities," she told InternetNews.com.

Both analysts say marketers can use the model to their benefit, with Jennings suggesting that savvy advertisers could use the platform to test ads before using them elsewhere.

Owyang agrees. "Typically, you don't know why someone clicked on an ad or not, there's not a mechanism for finding that out immediately, but with Digg Ads, you'll know because people will be talking about it as it gets digged up or down. This will give brands insight on how to create effective marketing," said Owyang.

As for how successful the Digg Ads will be, he predicts there will be some wrinkles at first, but in time the model will work. "I think marketers will mess with each other's ads, but they should be able to track that eventually. Second, if a Microsoft ad goes up, the Apple fan boys will trash it, so there may be cases where it's not really representative of the entire community," said Owyang.

However, he doesn't see the approach working outside of social media sites. "Community ranked ads will likely work better in homogeneous communities where there's a common interest or demographic, rather than a large broad community where consensus won't be found," he said. "Community ranked ads make sense for the Digg community, as they are already highly engaged in voting for stories, as well as the very active commenting."

Ultimately, Owyang believes social ads are a good thing for the future of online marketing. "If it works in the long term, it gets really interesting because it's not advertising anymore, it's content people want. In the most ideal sense, community-preferred ads become information and content -- not invasive content."