This is going to be a make or break year for Digg.com. After the debacle of 2010′s V4 launch, many in the industry thought that the site would die a quick death in 2011. As the year comes to a close, Digg is far from dead and is poised for a rebound in 2012.
Here’s what we expect (hope) to see from the social news giant:
Nothing else will have any meaning if Digg doesn’t turn a profit by the middle of the year. They are on the path towards profitability with a high-click advertising model through inline, Diggable ads. They will need to get more and bigger clients to take advantage of it to get there.
If there’s one reason Digg brought in Matt Williams as CEO, it was his understanding of profitability and advertising development. His success at and before Amazon show that he knows what it takes to make money. Now, they simply have to stay the course and deliver the cash to investors.
If they don’t turn a profit in 2012, the site will fail regardless of any other changes that take place.
In 2012, real-time is going to be a determining factor in regards to relevance in the social news realm. Twitter, Reddit, and others are able to deliver breaking news quickly. Digg is heading in the right direction with 2 additions from 2011.
Staff picks is the easiest way to highlight major breaking news. When Kim Jong-il died earlier this week, Digg staff was quick to post the BBC story at the top of their staff picks section. As a result, it was propelled to be promoted quickly to the top news section and eventually became the top story of the day.
Newswire and Newsrooms are the other elements introduced in 2011 that will help with smaller but important breaking news. Both offer fast-moving venues for stories to gain quick exposure. Last week, Digg started utilizing Newswire stories more prevalently in their front page promotion algorithm, running a second algorithm side-by-side with their standard promotional algorithm to highlight Newswire stories. In essence, breaking stories have a way to get the attention they need more quickly and can be promoted to the top news section in a couple of hours rather than waiting the period necessary to hit the minimum Digg count for their primary algorithm.
One of the biggest complaints over the years with Digg (and social news sites in general) is that they are often closed gardens when it comes to website promotion. It’s challenging for new websites to find success on Digg because of the roadblocks the site’s algorithm have put in place.
Everyone wants diversity – highlighting Mashable and DailyMail with several stories every day hitting the front page doesn’t do much for using Digg as a discovery tool. The sites that people are already visiting regularly are the sites that Digg and other social news sites often highlight.
We expect to see a shift in 2012 to allow for smaller websites with interesting perspectives and content to hit the front page more often. It makes sense because small publishers will be more thankful and pay more attention to the spikes in traffic they receive from hitting the front page and will be more likely to cater content around Digg, even adding more prominent buttons or widgets. Larger sites like Mashable don’t even have Digg buttons on their stories anymore.
From a user perspective, knowing that Digg will highlight the best content from sources that we aren’t normally visiting will add value in the way that has helped StumbleUpon succeed in the last couple of years. There’s nothing better than finding an amazing piece of content on a site that we would have never even known about otherwise.
Most importantly, diversity will allow Digg to be a relevant visit for content publishers and aggregators. There was a time when site owners would visit Digg to find the latest and greatest offbeat or technology news for inspiration and discovery. Those days are gone but have a chance to return as Digg expands beyond the whitelisted mainstream media sites that have plagued them for years, even before V4.
It’s a fine line to tread in social news. Spam has been and always will be a problem when you have a site that relies on user votes for the content that they highlight. Mainstream media might not be exciting, but it’s safe. Digg must expand the sites they allow to hit the top news section, but they must monitor it carefully and fight the spammers as much as possible without being Draconian about it.
The site can always use more traffic. They can also use more engagement with the community. Adding more unique content in the form of blog posts and user-generated guest posts can kill both birds with one stone.
Those who run blogs know that unique content that gets linked to by other websites and shared by visitors on other social media sites is one of the keys to traffic. Digg has always done well in Google; more unique content will help.
They have indicated that they will be posting more content, particularly from users. I would love to see them posting a new unique story every other day or even more often, but as long as they’re posting something every now and then, they will grow.
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Digg is at a crossroads. If they are able to stay the course and continue to hammer away at the various elements that will improve the site, they can be the feel-good rebound story of 2012. If they falter, they may be another MySpace waiting to happen.