Everyone wants to know what the world is talking about at any given time – whether it’s an incredible sports play, the latest scandal or an amazing tidbit of unexpected insight into something cool. Social news websites like Digg and Reddit allow us to discover and share content that’s generating buzz on any given day. And they represent attempts to aggregate news in an era when it’s difficult for anyone to keep up with the sheer amount of stories being produced.
Digg represents an interesting case study in social news. Once a hot commodity, the site fell on hard times and has since struggled to regain its mojo. Today a new team at Digg is attempting to recapture the old magic by rethinking the user experience.
Back in late 2004, Digg was a startup with an original design that was free of advertisements. Among its founders was Kevin Rose, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist who most recently took a post at Google.
Digg’s appeal was simple: users could show whether they liked a piece of content by giving it a “digg” or expressing their dislike with a “bury.” This constant stream of social signals gave the site a constantly changing list of popular and trending content about anything under the sun. Digg quickly caught on with millions as a way for people to vote on and share fascinating, quirky or outrageous new stories.
Startup letdown (and re-emergence)
But somehow Digg eventually lost all its momentum and began to languish. By 2011, TechCrunch reported that not even Rose was using Digg much anymore. Other networks like Twitter and Reddit were gaining a lot of popularity while Digg faded into obscurity.
However, Digg was in for a second chance. New York-based tech firm Betaworks bought the remainder of Digg last year after LinkedIn and the Washington Post had scooped up some of its personnel and intellectual property.
Betaworks felt that Digg was way ahead of its time in 2004. So a team of 10 editors, engineers and designers took Digg back to startup mode with a new version. Tech influencers like Gizmodo praised what the new Digg team was able to do in six weeks – dramatically improving the site’s design and usefulness in presenting trending content.
And these seeds of change are yielding fruit. Last month, Digg reported that its user base had doubled since August, with more than 10 million user emails on file. However, the question of profitability remains. Like many social networks – even those that enjoy tremendous traffic – Digg must figure out how to allow advertisements or some other way to monetize without alienating its loyal users.
So the question remains: Will Digg 2.0 continue to grow in an intensely competitive social landscape? We’d love to hear your thoughts about Digg or social news in general.