After an eternity (in internet years) as the top dog in driving traffic, how did Digg lose their footing?
The problems began with the version 4 redesign in the spring of 2010 when they were terrified of being marginalized by twitter. This led them to try to become twitter, which was a huge mistake as their rabid fan base was loyal to Digg specially because they WERE NOT twitter.
They tried to become a social media site focused on sharing between friends, and killing the Upcoming News tab. They tried to justify this using questionable statistics, hyperbole and long winded blog posts, but the end result was not good. Traffic is down 37% in the past 3 months and this crushing blow has caused them to loose their lead over the main competitor Reddit.com.
A quote from Founder Kevin Rose
“Out of 200+ Million pageviews in July, only 0.4% was from upcoming (yes, that’s less than 1/2 of a percent). I definitely see the fun behind wanting to see stories just before they jump…”
The problem with this is the role of that page for so many die hard users some of whom make their livelihood/spend extraordinary amounts of time getting stories promoted to the homepage. The Digg team was asking questions wishing for answers, but they forgot the people they served and are paying for it with lost traffic.
Unfortunately team Digg misinterpreted the results and did not see the correct patterns in site usage and user engagement.
After the new Digg redesign, they called it a success:
“Usage looks extremely good (ie. more people registering (43,000+ new users yesterday), digging, consuming, clicking, following, etc.)”
It’s easy to postulate, but they cannot ignore a bad situation or change statistics to fit their desired results. This activity was from the short-term spike in awareness and buzz from the relaunch, but it was not sustainable.
Digg was like Yahoo in the late 1990’s when they were terrified of being swallowed by Microsoft, so they transformed themselves from a tech company into a media company. In the end, they met the exact fate they tried to avoid, and lost their core search business to MSN.
Digg appears to be in the same position, trying to differentiate themselves from other social media sites and stop hemorrhaging users to twitter, but they appear to be doing a “Yahoo”.
They need to ask tough questions, examine the data, and check the patterns to determine whether the numbers you end up using actually help people, or constitute self delusion.
They have a great website, millions of users and a strong brand, I am rooting for the Digg team to come out swinging with version 5 and retake their past position.