Calacanis Enticing Diggers With Cash

    July 19, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Weblogs Inc and Netscape head Jason Calacanis is offering $1,000 per month to the top users on Digg, Reddit, Newsvine, Delicious, and Flickr to do for the revamped Netscape what they currently do for free for those other sites.

Calacanis Enticing Diggers With Cash
How Much Cash Would You Dig For?

If you can’t beat them, buy them. Evidently, Calacanis is not content to sit around and wait for Netscape to grow as other sites like the wildly popular Digg has done. Instead, he’s made an audacious bid to the bookmarking community to keep doing what they do, just do it on Netscape.

And for that, Calacanis wants to add a grand per month to the bank accounts of those highly active social bookmarkers. To beat the competition, Calacanis figures Netscape needs to increase its quality.

“The only way to do that is an investment of time. Time equals money, so they both need an investment on a cash basis,” he wrote on his blog. “Talented people’s time in our society is primarily engaged with money.”

Calacanis noted that the most popular social news sites were each driven by a small core of highly-active users. He wondered why people would volunteer their time in this way, and received what many would consider an expected answer: these users received satisfaction from sharing the stories they posted and being recognized for their efforts.

Thus the $1,000 per month offer for those most active users. Calacanis explained more about the offer in his post:

Now, this offer is going to get a big response I know, so we’re going to have to limit to a dozen or so folks. However, I’m absolutely convinced that the top 20 people on DIGG, Delicious, Flickr, MySpace, and Reddit are worth $1,000 a month and if we’re the first folks to pay them that is fine with me–we will take the risk and the arrows from the folks who think we’re corrupting the community process (is there anyone out there who thinks this any more?!).

We’re gonna identify [these] people in our system as “Netscape Navigators,” and they will work with our full-time “Netscape Anchors” to build a community.

His logic for making the offer contends that “savvy startups which identify the top 5% of the audience and buy their time.” Once that happens, few will be satisfied to be unpaid content contributors.

The strategem from Calacanis has drawn arrows as he predicted, but not over the prospect of paying contributors for content. TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington compared the offer to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic:

Netscape has a massively larger audience than Digg, but has absolutey failed to impact Digg growth at all. AOL placed a big bet on this product, and I imagine they want to see fast results. They aren’t getting those results. Jason’s post is a sign of desperation more than anything.

At the end of the day, the Netscape product is a soulless reproduction of one of the most interesting cultural experiments occuring on the web right now….Buying users from Digg won’t change that one bit.

It looks like AOL has a mess on its hands. The obvious question is, will Jason will be the fall guy when it comes time to point fingers?


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.