We’ve been planning on this story for a while but it’s been challenging finding a piece of content that fit the criteria. It needed to be very close to being equally popular on both Digg and Reddit, plus we needed the site owner to be willing to share their analytics data with us. Thanks to our friends at Techi, we found a case study story.

Let’s take a look:

The Numbers

As you can see, they had the same title and both were submitted to the Politics section. The number of Reddit points was a little higher than the number of Diggs, but comments weren’t even close – over 3X as many on Reddit than Digg.

The Circumstances

On Reddit, the story never made it passed #3 on the Politics subreddit. It appeared on the Reddit homepage for those who had Politics selected (it’s one of the default categories) and for about 3 hours for unauthenticated visitors.

On Digg, it was the top story of the day for 5 hours and was on the Top News in All Topics sidebar for nearly 21 hours. It was also the top story in politics, of course.

The Results

As you can see, Reddit sent nearly 50% more traffic even though it was not one of the top 10 stories of the day. Direct traffic is a combination of the two plus other sources (Google Analytics does not attribute all traffic from either Google or Reddit properly), but even if you add all of it to the Digg tally it still isn’t enough.

Facebook shares soared once the story was on the Digg front page and had another bump once it hit the sidebar. While there is an intrinsic value beyond traffic for getting Facebook shares, the traffic itself was lukewarm at best.

Time on site is close enough to be a wash for this relatively long article (perhaps Reddit users read faster?).

The Conclusions

While there is and likely always will be a strong value and certain sense of pride for getting to the Digg homepage, it’s not what it used to be. Before, a story like this would have received 3000+ Diggs, 300+ comments, and upwards around 100,000 visitors. Reddit has been kicking into high gear over the last year, getting noticed by more people (as can be seen by their 290% increase in traffic year over year).

Digg is at a crossroads – while they are putting into motion changes and implementing new features based upon user feedback, their time may still be short. To achieve the spot of reverence they once had and to have any chance at all of growing, they must act immediately. Websites, even tech blogs, have stopped paying attention to them. If they wait too long (which it appears they are doing) before generating some buzz, they may not make it beyond 2012.

Reddit, on the other hand, has really only one thing to fear – success. While their moderators and strict spam algorithm keep the site relatively free of junk, it’s in the users that the real quality-filtering occurs. As they grow, more spammers will notice. They have been able to keep them at bay up until this point, but success and mainstream adoption will make it more challenging.

Both sites have the ability to make 2011 great – Reddit can continue to grow and Digg can turn things around. Will they?

Written by JD Rucker
+JD Rucker is Editor at Soshable, a Social Media Marketing Blog. He is a Christian, a husband, a father, and founder of Dealer Authority. He drinks a lot of coffee, usually in the form of a 5-shot espresso over ice. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.