Reputation for Sale: Do “purchased identities” work?

under new management
Photo by Timo Wuerz

At first, it was World of Warcraft players selling their characters for boatloads of cash. Now, we have the first “Top 100 Digg user” trying to sell his account on eBay. With all of the recent news about top Digg users being offered cash by Netscape, this comes as no surprise.

As TechCrunch reports, the auction is for the Digg username GeekForLife. A quick look shows that the user has submitted 748 Digg stories, 39 of which have made it to the Digg home page. Since this morning, there has been 27 bids with the current bid going at $325.

Will “purchased identity” work?
Unlike buying game characters, there is really less benefit from buying someone’s Digg profile or any profile that has to do with reputation. Buying an experienced World of Warcraft character account for instance might give you access to more exciting levels, as well as rare items useful for raids or trades in the game. Buying a Digg account is practically useful (unless it for media attention) since it is likely for the buyer to fall off that Top 100 Digg user charts when he/she is unable to keep up with the original user’s submissions. As Kevin Rose already mentioned in his latest Diggnation videocast, the Top 100 Digg users keeps fluctuating and of the top users who might be bought over, many more would likely take their place.

Branding in Real Life
In real life, we might contrast situations like these to ones where a businesses comes under new management. I’ve always been mystified how consumers are suppose to perceive this. It doesn’t mean that a restaurant’s food would take better, or that service would be impeccable, since it’s still requires us taking risks to figure out how the suggested improvements work out. While I might assume regular customers becoming skeptical when their favorite businesses are managed by someone else, I am challenged by the notion of whether brand names are indeed that valuable. So long as the quality of product or service isn’t too drastically changed, we’ve seen people sticking with it (i.e. Coke vs. Pepsi).

In essence, I might have seen GeekForLife’s posts before and liked them, but there isn’t any pioneering advantage he has over other Digg users. While his name certainly isn’t a brand, it’s a worthy experiment to see how much traction the identity’s new owner would get before it plummets down the charts.