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RIP Digg: Enter the New Social Media Frontier

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Early Times

Back in the old school days of the social web (2005-2008), Digg.com was the place to be. If you were a top Digg user, you had clout (not klout, that’s for newbies, stick with me here) in the newly emerging Web 2.0 world.

There were other great sites like Netscape, Newsvine and Mixx where you could share content and gain eyeballs as a publisher. Connections were made and lifelong friendships emerged. People were happy.

Then things changed. Sites stopped listening to the core fans that made them great. The fans revolted. Some of them even made webcomics to further make the points of social media warfare.

Still, the sites got bigger and the power users reluctantly continued to participate, despite their diminished importance. Others, such as Mixx, came on the scene to make users feel welcome again.

Then, sites closed down and got acquired. Digg, the once frontrunner of the pack, started mindlessly catering to the publishers only. They made changes like v4 that really were a damper on the curator’s party. Sites need to understand that sure, you can build a great aggregator, but you still need to rely on the sharp eyes of human curators. Every other medium has proofreaders, editors, directors, librarians and the like. Count on it for the social web as well.

And now Digg’s been sold. By now, you’ve heard the news. Digg has been sold to BetaWorks for 500k (ok maybe more like 16million if you count the IP rights with LinkedIn and Washington Post). That’s a small number considering the once-valued 100million-ish speculation during talks with Microsoft. Don’t forget one of the biggest potential moments for Digg with a whopping $200 million Google acquisition that was rumored to be on the table.

What the Power Users Have to Say

Before we close the book on Digg, let’s take a look at what some of the users – past and present top diggers – have to say about the deal:

“I think that the company got a great deal buying it for only $500k. Even though Digg V4 is terrible and it was really a downgrade instead of an upgrade the Digg brand still has plenty of potential to turn things around and generate a profit if the right things are done to it. Bringing Digg back to a startup company was probably the best thing they could have done to bring Digg back to its roots and bring back users.”

Drew Hendricks – smurfz

“If you believe in Karma, Digg’s demise has been a long-time coming based on how they treated power users (their biggest brand advocates) in the past with mass bannings, removing user icons front page stories, etc. You can have the best technology and team in the world but you’re nothing without a community. Especially when it comes to a site that’s driven by the community.”

- Jordan Kasteler aka NerdCore

“Selling Digg appears to be the best direction they could have gone at this point. They didn’t even have employees who could make the site run properly over the long term. The Washington Post had just bought more than half the employees they had left (the engineers). Those who were still employed had to ‘abandon ship’ as it were because they were told they wouldn’t have jobs within a month.”

- John Boitnott, VP Business Development at Hasai

“I think that Digg’s decline was inevitable since 2008 when Digg alienated many community members by banning any activity deemed “suspicious.” It only worsened when their site redesign did away with user history despite so many hours logged on by their most ardent supporters. As a former top user who was given the boot alongside some of the most aggressive users of the site (and those who truly built the community), I knew back in 2008 after the purge that Digg was destined for failure, and that was reinforced in v4. It never gained steam after that. It first lost its devoted community. Then, Digg’s redesign effectively made it a much cheaper property on day 1, and its value has depreciated ever since.”

- Tamar Weinberg, former top user of Digg, author of The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web

“Digg was great when the Digg users were contributing and didn’t have to deal with corporate content. Once they change over to the new digg and allowed corporate dollars to take over the site, they ruined it. Maybe not for their pockets at the time, but they ruined it for the user and the users left Digg.”

- Patrick Parise AKA Jenocide312

“It’s disappointing to see Digg’s ultimate fate; it was once the king of social news platforms but ultimately proved why not listening to your user base is a bad idea.

I remember Digg during the glory days and the Google acquisition rumors and we couldn’t help but feel excited at the prospect of Digg evolving into something greater. It was rough to see Digg push v4 so early and degenerate into its current state.”

-Victor Barrera

“Digg’s users are not losing out on this deal. It’s the investors who gave Digg $45 million over the years who get the short end of the stick. The users having been loosing out for years. Since it’s existence Digg has been a socialist state with the people being victimize by algorithm politics, ambiguous suspensions or bans, forced redesigns and new features and leaders who just smile and say it’s all for the greater good.”

- Michael Kaufman (MikeonTV)

“Today’s sale of digg.com proved crowdsourcing community opinion is an integral part to the success of a any startup or corporation with a social purpose. According to Google Insights, Digg’s popularity peaked in May 2007 and remained strong through January 2010 [src: http://www.google.com/insights/search/#q=digg.com&cmpt=q] During that same period there were rumors Google wanted to purchase Digg for $200M [June 2008, TechCrunch], a figure eclipsing today’s sale price of $500K. Granted, Google may have been more interested in Digg’s proprietary algorithm than anything else, the Digg community was at its strongest during that time. The service, unfortunately deteriorated with each version release since its peak. For several years after the mid-2000s Digg delivered its core mission: to find and share the Web’s best and most relevant content. Several consecutive version releases seemed to isolate the community’s strongest contributors, and ignore the input from top users. Though it took a few years to decline to the point where it stands today, there were several points the trend could have reversed had it incorporated the feedback.

Community users were dedicated to the point of sprouting spinoff sites to track top digg users by day/week/month, etc., track FP% ratio, influence and other scoreboard metrics. This system assured top users stayed competitive and submitted quality content for the integrity of their profile and the community as a whole. Today, stories hit the FP with only 16 diggs, indicative of the low submission rate and quality of articles submitted. I wish Betaworks the best with its venture, and maybe they can resurrect what was once the greatest news aggregator of its time.”

- Roni Leibovitch

“When many top Diggers got banned, including myself, I felt cheated & used. I looked to Twitter as the next medium that couldn’t be controlled through algorithms & back-room deals but instead operating off of real social sharing. The day Digg hijacked it’s shortened URL in Twitter to force people into a Digg bar I knew it had lost it’s way for good. Digg truly revolutionized social voting & fueled a new paradigm of social media marketing in Twitter’s infancy & with Facebook’s rise. The Digg community is among everyone forever as long as social votes are made by humans & stories need exposure. I hope the core of Digg survives this change but it doesn’t seem likely as it’s time has passed, maybe Betaworks can invent a new direction?”

– Joel Mackey, Executive Editor at Z6Mag.com (@webaddict)

What Lies Ahead

There’s definitely been a downfall on the participation of the social web these days. People aren’t blogging as much, it’s easier to send a Tweet. And comments? Ain’t nobody got time for that! Just RT and like that post.

Don’t let me depress you with this post, dear reader. The new frontier of the web and the battle for Middle Earth is just beginning. And it’s really starting to get interesting.

Look at the new playing field:
Aggregators / social news: Digg/Betaworks, Reddit
Web discovery: Stumbleupon
Social graph: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter
Browser: Apple, Google, Mozilla, Microsoft
OS: Apple, Microsoft, Google
Device: Google, Apple, Microsoft

Read this post in 2 years, it’s likely to be a different list. You’ll probably be reading it from a different device in a different way as well. The stage is set. Curators, take a bow…

Time for Act II.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JayFowler3 Jay Fowler

    Years ago a naive man took to his keyboard and found Digg.com. The young man started commenting and socializing. He started getting to know the top users and shakers. He formed good friendships with those users that still last to this day. Back when the Social World was young and looked to be the next BIG thing, the players he knew became the ones with the truest voice. They could spot trends and predict the rise and fall of viral campaigns. Then something happened…. Corporations took notice and flooded the community with their garbage ads.. The veteran users told them “Hey you guys are doing it wrong and screwing up the community in the process.” Smaller companies heard this and began to listen. The veterans in the community became well known and respected. Small companies used the knowledge of the veterans to launch massively successful, viral, campaigns. 
     The the Dark Lord Digg did not like what he saw, and marched his dark army of bans toward the veterans. When this did not work Digg forged a new version.. version 4. One Version to DESTROY THEM ALL! It was at this time a smaller Army led by Huffman and Ohanian took up their users sword and defeated the Dark Lord Digg. 
     Memory became legend, legend became myth, until one day the Digg ensnared a new bearer who took it deep into the caverns of the internet…where it waits….

  • http://nowsourcing.com/ Brian Wallace

    Yup, that’s pretty much where I was going with that.  Thanks for noticing that line :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/PatrickT.Parise Patrick Parise

    Long story short is I made my share of money from Digg. A LOT of money in the grand scheme of things. But when Digg caught wind of that many users were making money off their site, they shut a lot of us down to the best of their ability by banning users. Users that produced very popular content. Digg was one of the easiest sites to “Game” and perhaps that is what lead to the downfall of such an awesome sight. Perhaps Digg’s view on others making money on their site, with them not getting a piece of that pie, was enough of a reason for them to make the changes that pretty much drove away most all of the powerusers.

    There are hundreds if not thousands that made a name for their selves in social media thanks in large part to Digg. Many of those people are still making money or even earning a living working full time in social media because of Digg. I don’t hate Digg at all. In fact just the opposite. I just hate the changes that were made and I wont go back until there is some type change back to the way it was before they let corporate companies take over the content and control what they want promoted.

    I think @webaddict:twitter, Joel Mackey “The Digg community is among everyone forever as long as social votes are made by humans & stories need exposure.” As long as Digg exists, people will use it in one way shape or form.

  • http://blog.digidave.org/ digidave

    I spent a lot of time on Digg. There was a utopian moment there which I miss. It was that moment you mentioned in the beginning where – some good e-friends were made. That’s actually the one thing I take away from my time at Digg. It’s that I know folks like you, @facebook-1079407521:disqus @webaddict and others – and while we aren’t day-to-day interacting with each other about the community site we once loved/cherished – sometimes people have to go their own way – but it’s always nice to come back and see where everyone went.

  • http://nowsourcing.com/ Brian Wallace

    @digidave – great to see you here! This is like some strange family reunion where we’re paying respects for Digg.

  • http://nowsourcing.com/ Brian Wallace

    Agree and this wasn’t a hate on Digg post. Just an honest accounting on where we’ve been and where we’re probably going.

  • http://blog.digidave.org/ digidave

    I suppose it is a bit of a wake… huh. And it’s good to see you too! How are the kids! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Greg-Davies/765110716 Greg Davies

    The downfall of Digg began with my banning in 2007.  This is the final nail in the coffin.  It took far too long to get to this point.  

  • http://twitter.com/macroneus Roni

    Over the past 24 hrs I heard from people who I haven’t heard from in years regarding this topic. Which cements the camaraderie of this community; especially during its heyday, as everyone agrees was pre-V4!

  • http://nowsourcing.com/ Brian Wallace

    Great thanks! Hope all is well with you.

  • http://nowsourcing.com/ Brian Wallace

    It’s weirdly kinda fun.

  • http://nowsourcing.com/ Brian Wallace

    Sure did! Kind of surprising it took so long.

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