Unlike Pay Per Post, the company doesn’t waste a lot of time trying to spin their business into something socially acceptable. People pay them to pollute big social sites and get traffic, and they’re ok with being slammed for that. As long as they make money. The whole operation is complete with founder pseudonyms (Ragnar Danneskjold, Vasili Taleniekov), proxied whois records, and a clandestine PayPal Account.
The service is bringing in the new year with a new pricing model. In ’08, Diggs and Stumbles will be increased to $2 per vote. Users will be paid $1 for their votes. You can also earn 20% of the earnings of any friends you refer, and 10% of the cost of advertisements from any advertisers you refer.
And they are also expanding into YouTube.
Getting articles on the front page of Digg has gotten harder as the community has grown, however. Digg’s algorithms have become more resistant to the same groups of users voting stories, so getting even 50 Diggs is no guarantee of success. Although, S&P claims 9,000 users internationally which they can spread the votes amongst. They also ask users to vote for a random group of other stories to obfuscate their operation. S&P previously claimed a 2/3 success rate.
Assuming it takes 100 votes to ensure a story hits the front page and that it will pull in 10,000 visitors, you’d be paying $0.02 per visitor; a rate comparable to low end remnant advertising. Articles could be much more effective, or not hit at all.
Next Stop, YouTube
While they have not yet revealed how they plan on subverting and profiting from YouTube, we can take some guesses based on Dan Ackerman’s infamous guest post on the subject. Dan’s viral suggestions included email lists, comments, views, blog embeds, and ratings. I imagine S&P’s strategy will center around paying their users to boost each of these.
However, getting big on YouTube is significantly harder than Digg or StumbleUpon. Front page featured videos are chosen by YouTube itself and pushing a video up the ranks in terms of views requires tens of thousands, not hundreds of user actions. I can only imagine their plans include outright view fraud to make the video “go viral”.
Still, I’m left wondering how much all this trouble is worth to advertisers. YouTube videos don’t easily drive traffic to a website, making them harder to audit than referral links from Digg or StumbleUpon. Also, at the end of the day you don’t know how much these services actually contributed to the success of your content. Any statements about the success of these operations come from their founders and are shrouded in promises of secrecy for their clients.