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Digg funding to go to features, expansion, publisher relations

Company's chief revenue and strategy officer shares some details about where the latest round of funding is going. "We've only realized a fraction of our vision," he says.

I got Mike Maser, Digg's Chief Revenue & Strategy Officer, on the phone right after the news broke about the company's latest round of venture funding. Maser said the funding will help the company expand both in scope and reach.

"We've only realized a fraction of our vision," he said. "We want to be a global brand in five years, much sooner hopefully. We want to become a household name." Maser said Digg's goal is to take its current 30 million unique users per month and expand it to 100 million, and have "Digg be as pervasive as YouTube and Facebook."

The goal is to expand globally, with localized versions where appropriate. "We don't have a Digg UK," Maser said, "but London is our largest city in terms of traffic."

The additional funding will be used for product expansion as well. Maser said that as the user base grows and the focus of the content becomes more diffuse, it becomes increasingly important for Digg to offer strong personalization features, "to make it as personal as you want it to be." Currently, he says, "As Digg grows, content becomes less relevant to you."

The users, Maser said, have "a thirst for a faster pace of feature rollout. It's really about expansion and speed of our growth."

The new money will also be used to create new tools for publishers whose stories end up on Digg. Maser said he wants Digg to "double down on working with publishing partners to give them deeper integration, more sophisticated tools and analytics, to show how Digg is affecting their usage."

The company's revenue strategy is, and will remain, advertising-based. However, new programs will "provide new tools and new ways for advertisers to integrate in more contextual ways, with more custom sponsorships, beyond the conventional banner approach," Maser said.

Maser remains bullish on the business model, even in today's rocky economy. "The fact that we were able to secure this funding in this market shows the strength of the model and the team," he said. "There may be rocky times ahead, but the ad market remains strong. The fact is that advertisers are still moving money from traditional media to online. We're not seeing a slowing today in terms of advertising demand." He said Digg's advertising revenue has tripled in the last year, in part due to the Microsoft deal in which that company is selling Digg's banner inventory. He would not reveal the dollar figures, however.

Not all companies will benefit from this advertising rotation, he said. "Publishers who have strong performance and a great audience will weather the storm. But you may see some companies hit the wall."

When reminded that the company claimed that last round of funding was supposed to take Digg to profitability, Maser said, "Our B round would have funded us to profitability on the vector we were on then. But with the opportunities we see internationally, (we needed) to grow the team. The goal with this round is to fund us to profitability."

The San Francisco company is also moving to a new headquarters, three times the size of the current office.

If you're liking the sound of this, take note: Digg has about 75 people on staff right now, with 10 to 15 openings, mostly in engineering and operations.