Socialmedian is a new Web 2.0 conversation service that does a decent job of repackaging concepts that users of Digg and Twitter will find familiar. I fear it's a bit too similar to other existing services to break into the mainstream, but there are some concepts and experiments on the site that make it work, at least for its devoted early beta users.
The site has been in closed alpha testing until now, but it is scheduled to open up to all tonight.
On Socialmedian, you either join or create topics you're interested in, such as "Web 2.0," "Obama," or what have you. You can also follow particular people's updates if that's you cup of tea. It has the potential to work since the mechanics of contributing and following are good. There's a bookmarklet for grabbing URLs to share. This is something that Broong didn't get right, for example.
The challenge for this service is that, like any other social product, it's worthless without users. And given the slight bias the site has toward celebrity users (they're the ones people will probably want to follow), there's an even bigger challenge of getting people who are already Internet-famous to lock in to the system and use it regularly.
One smart move: An easy way to send any item (either the page the item is about or the discussion around it on Socialmedian) to Twitter. During my testing of the service, I also found that it did a good job of auto-categorizing items into relevant topics. Users can also manually tag items they create.
As a business, Socialmedian could work. One of the project's backers is Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, an arm of the Washington Post Company that could nudge the development of the service into something that media properties might want to adopt--and pay for. Likewise, CEO Jason Goldberg says, he's getting queries from businesses who are interested in setting up private Socialmedian installations for hosting internal conversations.
I have no intention of trying to build a community of followers on Socialmedian, although if Ping.FM would let me cross-post items to the service, I would happily feed items to it. Also, I find that Friendfeed is doing a good job of keeping me updated in my field, even if the community does feel a bit more self-referential than I'd like. It looks like Socialmedian will do a better job of pulling in opinions from people they may not already be connected with.