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.

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.