While many are joking about the upcoming reincarnation of Digg, I can’t help but find myself curious and excited. With giants like Reddit and BuzzFeed out there, the prospect of a new Digg rebuilt from scratch has my imagination spinning for a number of reasons.
They have nothing to lose.
With the entire company selling for only around $500,000 they have the advantage of once again being the scrappy little startup but with one major advantage that other startups lack.
They have a legacy of mistakes to learn from.
Unlike other social news sites looking to start from the ground up, the new Digg v1 still stands to benefit from years of customer feedback about what worked in the past. And this time around, they’re listening.
According to the rethinkdigg blog:
Let users go, and they will come back to you. We optimize for return visits, not pageviews per visit.
We are doing away with “Newsrooms, we are killing the “Newsbar” (aka “Diggbar”), and we are reverting “Newswire” back to itsoriginal name, Upcoming.
They won’t be just another Reddit.
The redesigned Digg will look completely unlike Reddit, Fark, or even BuzzFeed.
Bold added for emphasis.
It seems to us that what the Internet is talking about is too rich to be properly represented by a list of headlines. Some stories are bigger and have more impact than others; some stories are actually components of larger ones. Some stories can be told with text; others are best told through images. So when we set about to rethink Digg we started with design.
Additionally, one thing Reddit does well is conversation. Even though there’s an entire industry built on “daily viral” sites that do little more than reblog content that’s already been vetted by Reddit’s front page, what sets Reddit aside from a site like BuzzFeed is their ability to act as a platform for building and growing niche communities. BuzzFeed isn’t interested in that because they don’t need to be, and so neither will Digg.
At launch, v1 will not include a commenting system. When Digg was founded in 2004, it was one of the only places on the web to have a conversation with like-minded people. Today, conversations happen everywhere, and the problem that Digg started to solve in 2004 now has no shortage of solutions.
Although it sounds as though they’ll be experimenting with different commenting systems, I would predict that they’ll opt for Facebook commenting integration sheerly out of the sake of simplicity. It’s not what I would prefer, but as anyone who’s worked in community management can tell you, moderation is a hassle.
Because “Diggs” will now be composite scores, they won’t be just another BuzzFeed either.
“Digg scores will also take into account Facebook shares and tweets.”
On Reddit, you simply have upvotes but no other social capital.
On BuzzFeed, the other social metrics are visible but what hits the front page is entirely queued up by their editorial staff, and consists most of posts by their editorial staff. The metrics show up, but no matter how much you click there is no chance of voting something to the front. It just doesn’t work that way.
If “The early Digg was brilliant and honest and democratic,” as the rethinkdigg blog puts it, then the new Digg will be the most honest and democratic among its competing platforms — that is, as long as the human mods take their jobs seriously.
How do we weigh the importance of all of these signals from around the web and manage the new design? That’s where our humans come in — Dave, Josh, and Ross.
Granted, as with any online community, there’s potential for the mods to abuse their power or otherwise use their powers in ways that the rest of the community think is “wrong.” As long as users can see the effect of their collective influence on the arrangement of content, all should be well.
Why I’m Cautious: They’re not trying to monetize yet.
“we aren’t interested in capturing pageviews.”
“you’ll find a beautiful, image-friendly, and ad-free experience.”
Users love an ad-free experience. Part of what has made BuzzFeed such a success is the fact that there are no banner ads anywhere. What makes this possible is sponsored content. BuzzFeed’s revenue comes from content made by their editors, for example “15 Ways Trolling is An Art” for Sour Patch Kids.
Although it’s possible that the new Digg could go the custom branded content route, this will necessitate adding editorial to their team to create that content. But without ads, or custom content, what’s left is paid promotion — preferential link placement for those who pay for it. But if Digg remains unconcerned with pageviews, that placement won’t mean much either.
At this point, there are a lot of variables up in the air. Digg could remain as irrelevant as it has been for the last two years, or this could be the birth of a refreshing alternative to the stale platforms that currently dominate this space. Whatever happens, I’ll be watching with popcorn in hand.