This is a heart transplant with brain surgery on the side.
As Betaworks prepares to launch New Digg V1, there is a smidgen of hope amongst many Digg users. Some abandoned the site after the recent sale. Most left long ago shortly after the release of the fatal V4 update in 2010. The once-mighty king of social news has been a shell of its former glory for some time, now. It’s not like we didn’t warn them.
For their own part, Betaworks is saying and seems to be doing the right things. Ads will be removed. The site will be much more visually-oriented. Social signals from Facebook and Twitter will be integrated into the algorithm (a change I strongly recommended in a meeting with the old Digg team in February, 2011). A human element has been announced to the public with the names of the moderators released for the first time in the site’s history; prior regimes always sidestepped the issue of human moderation.
This all sounds good. The challenge will be in the delivery and the team at Betaworks must understand that they have a single shot to get our attention or move into the social media graveyard with the likes of Mixx, MySpace, and both Buzz sites (Google and Yahoo). It’s the bottom of the ninth and they’re coming into the game down by double digits. There is no second chance on this one. Come in and impress us or go away.
We will find out on or around August 1 whether or not Digg has a future. It will be relatively easy to know in the first couple of days. They need three things to happen for the heart transplant to be successful:
- Users must love it. The reception of the current users who have stuck it out through the hard times must be nothing short of complete adoration or they’re gone forever.
- Tech blogs and social media sites must love it and talk about it massively. Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson made certain that Digg is no longer in a position to rely on its users alone. They must get new ones. They must get positive buzz. They must be the topic of discussion on all of the major tech news outlets for a few days after launch, then they must revive the buzz often over the next few weeks. This early stage is make or break for the site.
- They must not try to appeal to mainstream media by flooding the front page with NY Times and CNN stories. Google News and a dozen other aggregators have that covered. The biggest mistake they made 2 regimes ago was to try to appeal to the Mashable’s and Leo Laporte’s of the world. Instead, they must be willing to be the source of surfacing fresh and interesting content that you won’t find anywhere else. It is part of what made Reddit so strong the last 3 years. It’s what Digg used to be and lost in the midst of trying to be bigger than they were. Bloggers are the heart and soul of social news. Mainstream media sites won’t even notice a Digg front page on their analytics and could care less. Users have to feel like the site is not just an RSS feed from Techcrunch.
If they can accomplish these things, their chances of success are still pretty low. The site needed this type of change a year ago. Is it possible for them to succeed? Of course! We don’t know what’s completely up their sleeves yet. Once we do, we’ll know very quickly whether it will work or not.
As a 5-year Digg user, I’m definitely hopeful that it will work. I’d hate to see the site die.