We’re four and a half months into the new version of Digg. The social news site that was once the darling of technology and business bloggers alike had seen a dramatic downturn in traffic and users over the previous couple of years and there was a lot of excitement about the potential rejuvenation of the site. What came shortly afterwards was a flurry of criticism, a dramatic drop in traffic due to the scrapping of millions of pages that had been indexed in Google, and a loss of individuality – users were no longer really users that engaged with the site. The “social celebrity” status that many such as MrBabyMan and LouieBaur had achieved through years of work were destroyed by the new site “as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.”
Many, including myself, were broadsided. There was no way to lash out as there had been with previous poor moves by the prior regimes. This was a wholesale change and there was no hope for it coming back to the prominence it once held.
Now that I’ve been back on the site for a few weeks, there’s one noticeable difference. The quality of the content is better. The site is more useful, laid out in an easier format, and no longer loaded with the spam that has plagued the site since its inception. I’m not going to say that it’s better overall – the thrill of hitting the homepage is still completely gone – but there’s something that can be said about the resurgence of quality into a site that has always been driven by who submitted a story rather than the content itself.
The traffic to the site has remained relatively steady since the launch. This bodes well; normally when a site makes a major change like this that rocks its foundation, the traffic goes into decline and continues through to oblivion. The new Digg team has managed to find its place in the news world quickly and by maintaining a steady stream of visitors, they’re positioned to make the move back up in the rankings. Triage is over. Now, they simply need to launch some innovations that can bring them back into the public eye.
The site is still heavy with mainstream media stories, but you can still see some obscure sites with excellent quality content hitting the front page every day. It’s enough to keep the interest alive from the smaller sites while keeping quality controls in place. This was a challenge in the past when sneaky spammers were able to get awful content to the front page on a semi-regular basis. Today, the site is completely spam free, at least in the important sections. It’s still possible to sneak a bad story into the upcoming section at the bottom, but the meat and potatoes in the top two sections, top stories and popular, are where all of the action is happening.
We’ll see what happens in the coming months, but for the first time since the launch I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. By focusing on quality only and bringing in some freshness either to the site itself or with the ways they distribute the stories through email and social media, there’s a chance we may see Digg rise from the ashes in a way that so few “fallen” sites are ever able to pull off successfully.