Digg CEO Jay Adelson steps down

Founder Kevin Rose will be taking over the reins in the interim at the social-news site, which is preparing to overhaul its service.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
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Kevin Rose, who is taking over the CEO role at Digg from Jay Adelson, on the 2006 BusinessWeek cover that encapsulates the company's long-gone days of giddy dot-com hype. BusinessWeek

Citing an "entrepreneurial calling," longtime Digg CEO Jay Adelson announced Monday that he's resigning his position at the social-news site. Founder and chief architect Kevin Rose, who's been a far more visible face of the company over the years, will be taking over as interim CEO.

"After five years, 40 million users, and an amazing ride, I've decided to step down as CEO of Digg," Adelson, who says he will remain an adviser to the company, wrote in a post on the company blog. "With the new Digg getting ready to launch, Digg Ads doing well, our sales force growing, our hiring ramping, and the company maturing well beyond its start-up phase, I feel that now is the right time."

"While I'll miss working with Jay day-to-day I am excited to be taking on the role of Chairman and acting CEO, driving Digg forward on our promise to enable social curation of the world's content and the conversation around it," Rose wrote in an update to the post.

Adelson had been the CEO of Digg since 2004, when the company was founded; a few years ago, the San Francisco-based Digg was one of the most talked-about companies in Silicon Valley, with reported bidding wars on behalf of huge media and tech companies interested in buying it. Adelson and Rose repeatedly said they weren't interested in selling the company. Then, those rumors of a sale petered out when the recession hit and as social news increasingly became the domain of Facebook and Twitter. Amid rumors that the company's balance sheet wasn't looking too pretty, Adelson said that he was speeding up Digg's plans for profitability.

Plus, Digg's reputation as a hub for vocal "fanboy" types wasn't helping, and the company began preparing a massive overhaul of its technology. The company canceled its ad contract with Microsoft ahead of schedule and began rolling out its own Digg Ads product, which company insiders say has been a big success thus far.

At the South by Southwest Interactive Festival last month, where Digg each year throws a raging outdoor party populated by hundreds of its young male fans, Adelson took the stage at the event and gave a surprise preview of the revamped Digg. With an increased focus on real-time news, faster submissions, and customizability, Digg is attempting to do what critics say is crucial for its survival: break into the mainstream.

Facebook is reportedly preparing to make its thumbs-up "Like" buttons available to the Web at large, something that could be a serious blow to Digg in its current form. But Adelson's departure note was tinged with an attitude of "my work here is done," indicating that Digg believes it has its cards in order.