Is Digg Destined for Quick Comeback or Eternal Rest?
After Digg's painfully embarrassing sale -- which was probably a lot closer to the rumored $500,000 than the $200 million it might have attracted in its glory days -- it appears the social news site might be rising from the ashes. But unless Betaworks turns the new Digg back into the old Digg, "they're going to have to come up with a one-in-a-million great idea," said Internet marketing expert Brian Carter.
Digg is being rebuilt from the bottom up and will launch again on Aug. 1, just six weeks after Betaworks bought the social news aggregator.
A team of 10 engineers, designers and editors from Betaworks' News.me aggregation app said they're hard at work in an "adrenaline and caffeine-fueled six weeks" to redesign the site and restore it as an online social leader.
Digg was once one of the Web's hottest stops for social news aggregation. It saw about 30 million visitors per month and reportedly was in talks with Google about a possible US$200 million acquisition.
After an unpopular redesign, management turnover, and a rise in competition from sites such as Reddit and Facebook, however, Digg became increasingly irrelevant. Betaworks purchased Digg earlier this month for an undisclosed price, but rumors suggested it was far less than what it might have attracted in its heyday.
"Digg was one of the pioneers of social sharing," B. Thomas Varghese, CEO and founder of eBizUniverse, told TechNewsWorld. "This was an amazing concept and in many ways the start of a new revolution ... . But I would say that Digg became too complacent and didn't change with the times."
After the acquisition, Betaworks said it hoped to turn the company back into a startup and redesign it as a site that would fit in with the current social news climate.
Now, it plans to relaunch by Aug. 1, molding the best of News.me and Digg into a revamped site designed to make online reading a personalized and shared experience.
Betaworks did not respond to our request for further details.
Sharing the News
The Betaworks team is keeping in mind core principles of social news aggregation while it gives Digg its makeover. Primarily, it wants to make the process of finding, reading and sharing the most interesting online stories "fast and thin."
The team is working on making sure users can find and share those stories on any device, and will be able to share on platforms that already exist, such as Twitter and Facebook.
Digg's failure to accept those other social platforms was part of its downfall the first time around, noted eBizUniverse's Varghese.
"Digg should have realized this early on and developed a Facebook app ... and this would have probably kept the users still on Digg," he said.
The Betaworks team polled its users about how they got their news, what kind of devices they used, how often they used their phones to read news, and what they loved or didn't love about Digg.
Keeping users in mind is critical if Digg wants to have any kind of success moving forward, said Brian Carter, Internet marketing expert.
However, a single survey before the site's launch isn't going to give the team the kind of continuous feedback it needs to keep a social site going in the constantly evolving online world, he added.
"What Digg had but squandered, Reddit was able to achieve -- a popular user-driven content site," Carter told TechNewsWorld.
"The key to success in that niche is giving power to the users," he emphasized. "Let users shape the content. Betaworks put out a survey, which is nice, but they just need to look back at what Digg was in 2008, and what Reddit has been the last couple years. Digg shouldn't be created based on a survey -- it should be built to be a continuous survey."
Nostalgia Is Best Hope
Without the support of its users, no redesign could restore Digg to its peak, said Carter. Then, the site had "power-users" who dictated which stories would be displayed prominently. Those users were often sought out by larger companies for help in making their stories go viral.
"But Digg didn't value these power-users, so they cut off their nose to spite their face," he said. "Not putting the users first and doing too many redesigns was their downfall."
Going forward, those redesigns will be less important than how the site treats its readers, according to Carter, unless the Betaworks team is holding back on the next great innovation to hit social media.
"In my opinion, people might go back to Digg if they simply dialed it back to the old site," he suggested. "That would create some nostalgia. Otherwise, they're going to have to come up with a one-in-a-million great idea for the new site, and chances of that working out are pretty slim."