New Digg CEO Must Grab the Reins and Go

Digg, which is in the midst of a hot-button redesign, has hired a new CEO, long-time Amazon executive Matt Williams, as TechCrunch first reported today and Digg has confirmed. Williams was most recently general manager of Amazon’s (s AMZN) payments initiative, and before that led the company’s web store for three years — in both roles serving as a liaison to other online merchants. He joined Amazon when it bought his company in 1999 in a move to compete with eBay (s EBAY).

Williams, according to a co-worker’s recommendation on LinkedIn, is “great at defining goals and processes and driving for measurable deliverables” and skilled at building teams. Those talents could certainly be useful for Digg, which launched a redesign last week that had been over a year in the making, and had been interrupted by layoffs and an executive shuffle in April when founder Kevin Rose bumped Jay Adelson out of the CEO spot.

Rose has since said publicly that he’d rather work on product than be CEO. (His actual words to All Things D were that the chief gig was “a pain in the a** that I would never wish on my worst enemy.” Astonishingly, that recruiting job worked on Williams!) On the other hand, Williams’ background seems to be more in serving merchants than consumers, which is something Digg is being accused of doing now: giving preference to publishers over regular Joe users. Williams also doesn’t seem to be terribly active in social media himself; I can’t find an actively used Digg or Twitter profile for him.

Rose noted in a blog post that Williams had been involved in “Amazon’s community efforts” earlier in his carrier and said that Williams would handle the “day-to-day business” while Rose will “remain actively involved in the product.” Williams said he believed in “the potential of this new platform” and that “There is so much innovation yet to come.”

The Digg redesign (known as V4) had trouble getting out the door, is buggy, and has been panned and mocked by Digg users, especially long-time devotees of the site. Digg is racing to respond with fixes, including adding some old features back to the new version. Still, you can’t fault Digg for trying to do something bold, after languishing while sites like Twitter and Facebook became better ways for many users to stay abreast of the news through links shared by friends. Rose said in the All Things D interview he looks at the next four to six months as a small window for Digg to show itself — and investors — that the company can do something different and make it work. Now it’s up to you, Mr. Williams!

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