Where Digg Continues To Lose Its Way: Trying to Impress Mainstream Media That Doesn’t Give a $h17

When Digg first rolled out “Staff Picks” late last year, I was extremely excited. Here was an opportunity for Digg to use their front page real estate to highlight stories that were not getting the traction that they would be able to get on other social news sites like Reddit or StumbleUpon where quality matters more than promotion. I thought, “Now, let’s get some unique, viral material on the front page.”

I was wrong. It has proven to be a wasted ploy to try to get the attention of sites that not only don’t need the traffic but who consider Digg a minor blip on their radar (if they even consider them that anymore).

An average Digg front page gets sends around 3,700 visitors, while an average “sidebar” top news story gets around 14,300.  For the mainstream publications that Digg staff is promoting, it’s possible that these “spikes” in traffic will go completely unnoticed. As embarrassing as it is, Digg is irrelevant to sites like Telegraph and NYTimes.

The bottom two stories on the list, one for BoingBoing and one for Discovery Magazine, are legitimate picks, albeit to domains that may or may not notice the spike. When the top 3 on the list hit, nobody at any of the three publications will notice or care and are not the type of viral stories that need to be promoted by Digg staff ahead of more interesting articles, pictures, and videos that are flying passed the promotion threshold and not making it to the Top News page.

A story about the French cheating at chess? Really, Digg? That’s more viral than this? Or this? Or this? Or this?

Would you have selected the chess story if it wasn’t on NY Times? Of course not. Apparently, Digg staff believes that the NY Times needs 4,000 more visitors. Keep in mind – being a Staff Pick is all but a guarantee that if the story gets enough Diggs, it’s going to “pop.”

Changes are coming. The Matt Williams tour is rolling and seems to be picking up steam. These changes will likely include some redesign work, improved features, and a shift towards a stronger community. These will be great changes.

Until they roll out (and after they do), Digg MUST start paying attention to smaller publishers who will actually notice Digg bumps in traffic. Mainstream media has forgotten about Digg. The last story from a major publication that I interviewed for is scheduled to run today on Reuters about the death of Digg. I was complimentary, almost apologetic, and definitely hopeful in my comments, but it was hard. I so desperately want (need) Digg to succeed, but it almost felt like lying when I told the reporter that Digg had a bright future.

The clock is ticking. By the time Digg gets around to implementing their new identity, it’s possible that nobody outside of the hardcore Digg users will even care anymore.

Update: Shortly after this story was published, 3 of the Staff Picks were promoted to the front page simultaneously.

Update 2: … and the other 2 Staff Picks were promoted to the front page as well. Five for five. There was another story that hit in between – an NPR story. More mainstream. More “blah.”

Update 3: For anyone who believes that Digg is fairly picking out quality stories, just take a look at the most recent “Staff Pick“. It’s an AP story posted on CBS. Looks legit, right? If you search for “Pope” and open up stories that were submitted before it, you’ll see that there were several stories on the subject submitted ahead of it including 3 that were THE EXACT SAME STORY, VERBATIM, submitted ahead of CBS news. One even had the same headline, leaving an “_2” at the end of the CBS version.

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  1. Digg is forging ahead with their own irrelevance. No one wants to read terrible Newsweek or Atlantic articles that don’t get more than 80 diggs. And you’re completely right, even if Digg is (probably) being paid by these publishers for front page stories, they probably regret giving Digg a cent for all the mediocre traffic they send.

  2. Jo Deanny

    OK this really does make a lot of sense.


  3. JD, just looked at the author name to respond…. so you already know more about what I am going to say below and than me…, but for those that don’t know Digg’s history I will not be so nice as you….

    The demise of Digg started in 2008 when first Zaibatsu, then a large part of the top 100 and top 1000 on Digg got banned. I personally have been run off Digg by the Digg mafia five times. The bury button is back and it counts for 100 Diggs just like it always did.

    The problem with Digg has always been it’s malicious policies, brown shirt admins, and even more malicious Digg Mafia user base.

    As far as bloggers gaming the system for free traffic, the entire user base of Digg games the system to get front page. It’s what most are there for and it’s what made Digg fun for me: The game of “Gee, can I get front page with out the Digg Mafia burying my posts???” (and not my own content either)

    But in defense of Digg, I have never had more fun in 12 years of making my living online than playing tag with the Digg mafia in the never ending quest to get front page. If Twitter, Facebook or Google Buzz offered that, they would really have my attention.

    In fact, if Google Buzz offered a front page ala Digg, where I could find other like minded peeps and hot content, then maybe Google could pull a great platform out of a slow slide to joining Google Wave.

    It is also important to note that TechCrunch Digg buttons are mostly empty today and Mashable has replaced Digg badges with StumbleUpon. Once the darlings of Digg front page, they have now been abandoned… Interesting that, no…?

    We also have to admit that Facebook, who was supposed to be Digg’s savior in 2009 has turned out to be the the crushing force now in Web 2.0. Propeller.com, MyBlogLog, Flickr and many others are in worse shape.

    But look at StumbleUpon, they are kicking butt and studies are starting to show that Stumble drives as much or even more traffic to sites than Facebook. Stumble and YouTube are where my focus lies today because that is where the traffic is and you can easily find content and discover great stuff on those front pages.

    Just as I used to start my day on Digg’s front page, now I start it on Google Buzz and then Stumble and at least a third of what watch in my living room is on YouTube thru my Google TV.