So Digg released a new layout the other day, and I feel like another boat was missed. They made a big splash about this and it was covered in numerous places (for example, TC & Mashable). The new layout is noticeably faster to load, which is a huge plus. They tout that this new version emphasizes a “My news” approach to Digg, where they personalize the Digg site based on what you dugg in the past. In practice, unless you’re a power user, your news ends up spammed with news from one or two blogs you frequent.
I feel they are addressing their threats in the wrong order. Their website wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t their weakness either. Consider:
- The Like button is dominating right now. Virtually every blog has it.
- Facebook is a HUGE news traffic driver. Way bigger than Digg.
- A lack of personalization was never Digg’s problem. Plenty of news sites on the web are popular with no personalization functionality.
First, Digg needs to figure out a way to make article submission “fair” for the little guy (read: long tail of users). They should have fixed the fundamentally flawed “democracy” where certain users effectively had 1000 votes. Personalization is an approach to the problem, but it ultimately doesn’t stop popular individuals from heavily influencing all of their followers’ feeds (and thus accumulate votes). The main complaint was that only power users could effectively get articles to the front page. Perhaps the algorithm should better incorporate Digg-to-viewer ratios or weight Diggs from non-followers as greater. The point is, until this is fixed, Digg will never fully engage its non-power users due to a lack of incentive. This represents the vast majority of its user base.
Second, Digg needs to up readership engagement. They should really look at their Digg button and see how it compares against the infamous Like button. It needs to be as brainless as the Like button. Clicking on “Digg This” should instantly submit the article to Digg. No windows; no dialogs. This is how the Like button works, and its pervasiveness shows how simplicity can trump everything else. Of course, doing this might mean changing how article submissions work on Digg — no problem: let power users check a setting where they ARE prompted for a custom title or description. The point is, the process needs to have as few places as possible where a user can change their mind about participating in the Digging process.
The website, I think, was never the problem.