StatCounter, a free online visitor stats tool, reported Digg users deserted the site en masse on Monday, August 30 and fled to its competitor Reddit. Digg's traffic to the StatCounter network of 3 million websites "plummeted on Monday to 7.6% as opposed to Reddit's 92.4%."
The first punch was a scandal over a conservative voting pack that voted down articles written by "liberal" writers, even if the article's content was not liberal.
"The only reason why this specific scandal is getting so much attention is that Digg traditionally has a very liberal user base," said Will Chen, a top 100 Digg user. "However, whatever 'impact' this conservative voting pack had on Digg is fairly minimal relative to the flood of liberal stories that constantly gets on Digg. Not that there's anything wrong with Digg being liberal: the site is suppose to reflect user interest and, therefore, not surprisingly, it reflects their political leanings as well."
Users were outraged over the scandal but not near as badly over the subsequent site redesign that was supposed to stop voting packs in their digital tracks.
The new Digg is " ... more personalized, so what the conservative voting pack is doing to Digg may not affect what your Digg homepage looks like" said Chen. "Your Digg homepage is more like Facebook now."
Except it isn't. The new design is almost totally unusable. Users complain they are unable to post URLs to the site or share them with friends and they have difficulty rating other users' Diggs, too. In effect, Digg as a social media bookmark failed to bookmark anything.
Digg officials declined to comment.
Another competitor, StumbleUpon reported a steep climb in users, hitting 11 million over the weekend, but they think Digg's user desertion "had no effect" according to Katie Gray, StumbleUpon's Communications Manager.
"Digg and Reddit are crowd-sourcing sites," explained Gray. "StumbleUpon is more like Pandora is to music. We show results according to what people like you liked rather than merely what is popular across our entire user base."
While the Internet created unprecedented access to content, it's tough to sort the relevant from the irrelevant, the meaningful from the meaningless. Along came social media bookmarking sites such as Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Slashdot and Delicious, among others, to help sort out the mess.
"Social media bookmarking sites operate in a different way than Facebook and other social networks, but are extremely important for marketers, publishers, and prognosticators. They indicate what's hot and what's happening right now," explained Jake Wengroff, global director of Corporate Communications at research giant, Frost & Sullivan.
"The popularity of certain sites, news stories, or topics reveals to marketers the relevance of content, so they can adjust their offerings accordingly," he said. "The lack of popularity can also tell a marketer or publisher to desist from a particular strategy."
For awhile, the social media bookmarking sites reigned supreme; even news publications lived and died by one or more of the sites' results. But now Digg appears to be dying and other sites are fighting significant issues. That leaves plenty to speculate about on the future of the social bookmarking industry.
For example, Reddit has had some big user problems lately. Chen said that due to lack of funding, Reddit has had to implement a volunteer donors program to help keep the site running. This has led to lots of speculations on whether Reddit " ... will now have two classes of users -- the donors with special privileges, and the regular folks who get shafted."
To Reddit's credit, their administrators are constantly on the site answering questions. "Instead of throwing marketing speak at users, the Reddit admins have been great at engaging the users like adults," said Chen. "The result is that Reddit users have generally accepted the donors program called Reddit Gold."
"If Digg follows Reddit's example and starts being more open with their users, it should continue to lead the market," he said.
For now, it appears that Digg has dug its own grave. For the sake of the users, publishers and marketers that depend on it, let's hope Digg doesn't actually lie down in it.
A prolific and versatile writer, Pam Baker's published credits include numerous articles in leading publications including, but not limited to: Institutional Investor magazine, CIO.com, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers. She has also authored several analytical studies on technology and eight books. Baker also wrote and produced an award-winning documentary on paper-making.
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