The latest version of Digg - aka Digg v4 - is getting a lot of negative feedback from its users, especially the power users. They’ve lead a Digg Revolt by pushing articles from their rival, Reddit, to Digg’s homepage. Now, they’ve defaced the site’s comment system by littering it with anti-Digg comments.
Power users control 56% of the content that makes it to the homepage. This group tends to be on the nerdy/geeky side - and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a similar group to the audience for Slashdot.com when it was the most popular site of its kind (Digg had already usurped Slashdot in traffic by 2006). Nowadays, Slashdot looks like a mom-and-pop version of Digg, with the ability for users to vote stories up or down and sort them by time (recent, popular). Hey, if you can’t beat them, join them, right.
WHY KEVIN ROSE DID IT
Digg (and Slashdot) serves news that geeks care about, but Digg’s founder Kevin Rose wants to go beyond this user base with the new release. He wants Digg to be the next Twitter or Facebook, when it comes to sharing web content. I can understand that. Digg started this industry. They’re the guys who got websites to use the Digg buttons to share news articles, images, and videos. Now, Yahoo Buzz, Twitter, and Facebook all have sharing buttons, and everyone of them is a lot bigger than Digg. It’s time for Digg to reinvent itself or get left behind in the dust, like Slashdot before it. Digg experienced huge traffic growth from its inception to 2009, according to Alexa. This year, traffic started dipping, and that’s probably a big reason for the new release.
FACEBOOK, YAHOO, TWITTER, AND GOOGLE ATE DIGG’S LUNCH
I think their traffic plateaued because the big boys/gals - Facebook (Like, Share), Yahoo (Buzz), Twitter (Retweet), and recently Google (Buzz) - moved into this space. As soon as those sites moved into social content sharing, Digg’s growth flatlined. Maybe it’s grown as big as it could for this type of website. Now is probably the time to hold on to your dear users and focus on your niche - it’s a huge niche, btw. According to Compete, Digg had between 7-9M uniques/month in the U.S.; they claim to have 30M worldwide. It’s very difficult to go beyond your core users and extend your brand. What will probably end up happening with this newer version is that the brand gets diluted and becomes bland, like Yahoo Buzz, except without its traffic. If I wanted Yahoo Buzz, I’ll just go to Yahoo’s homepage. I go to Digg because I want to read news that nerds like me care about. I don’t think this version will be successful in getting Digg more users, but I have to give Kevin Rose credit for trying and being ambitious. You have to constantly refresh and tinker with your product, or it gets old.
USERS HATE CHANGE
Each time we did an upgrade to Rotten Tomatoes, the initial reaction had always been negative. I remember the first time we converted Rotten Tomatoes from flat html pages to a database-driven site, we had a ton of negative feedback. What we did to convert each and everyone of them was to respond to them directly on the message boards. We told them why certain changes were made, where to access previous features on the new site, and even incorporated many of their suggestions including reverting back some of the major changes. We gave them timely updates, and they were really happy in the end because they felt like they had a hand in shaping the new site. We followed the same process for each redesign/relaunch, except for the latest one because I and some of the original founders were gone by then. Kevin Rose is approaching it similarly by updating his users on his blog, except he hasn’t budged on reverting some of the major changes - namely, taking the power away from the power-users and allowing automated submissions.
THE RESULTS ARE IN, AND THEY’RE UGLY
I do notice that the homepage (aka “Top News”), in general, features less tech news. Overall, it’s less interesting news to me. It’s not as useful to me now, even after all of the Reddit attacks have been averted. Now, they’ve permeated through to the comments, most of which is a variation of “Digg v4 sucks, I’m heading over to Reddit.” Or “Why can’t I bury this spam?” Articles making the frontpage also seem to come more from users with few followers or digged articles. So far, I’m not impressed by the results from these newbies. I liked the results by the “popular” diggers. So what if they control most of what appears on the homepage? At least it’s stuff I would want to read. V4 is supposed to increase the number of diggs per article, but so far, the opposite is happening. I’m noticing less and less diggs on homepage articles, and the number of comments are fewer too. Kevin Rose said they have more sign-ups, but I think most of them are from users sticking in their feeds (automated submissions). To its credit, the “My News” tab does offer news that I care about, but like what some the users say, I could get a better version of this from my RSS reader or Twitter.
LISTEN TO YOUR USERS
So far, I’m siding with the complaining users. I’ll give it some time to settle down first before making a final judgement. One of the major changes during the second version of Rotten Tomatoes was laying out the quotes in one column instead of three columns. Both critics and users complained vehemently, and we changed it within a week. They were happy at the end. Digg v4 might just have to revert to its old algorithm which produced better results. Built around that rather than try to de-emphasize it. Give users back the features they love. Or watch them defecate on the site before migrating to Reddit, which has experienced a traffic spike since Digg v4 launched.
DIGG SMELLS LIKE A FORECLOSED HOME
It’s been a couple weeks, and the negativity still hasn’t stopped. Accounts from users who complained have been closed. Most of the comments for dugg articles are just trashing Digg. It’s getting downright ugly. The site looks like it’s been ransacked and sprayed with graffiti. The product is awful. How many more weeks can Digg keep this up without losing a significant portion of their users?
Digg v4: release, iterate, repeat.
They Can’t Go Back
Top 100 Digg Users Control 56% of Digg's HomePage Content
Giddy Reddit Exec Explains How Reddit Ate Digg's Lunch