Kevin Rose was the founder of the social media former superstar website Digg. Let us face it. Digg really revolutionized the way people shared information online. Well, at least it did until Twitter and Facebook stole its thunder. At least that is part of Rose’s explanation of what did Digg in. When asked if he made some money from the former high flying website Phenom, Rose said that he sold some shares during the company’s venture capital finance stage, but he also made it clear that he did not make much money off the deals. This revelation along with the mere fact that Digg fell from its lofty heights in the internet public’s imagination shows some of the realities behind the Digg hype. Digg was such a phenomenal content model that in 2008, the company was valued at around $160 million by its venture investors.
Since then the website continued to hemorrhage traffic, influence and activity. While its current traffic volume is nothing to sneeze at, it is obviously a shadow of its former self. When asked regarding what caused the failure of Digg, Mr. Rose was quick to acknowledge that part of the reason were several missteps committed by Digg itself. He also, most importantly, pointed to the argument that Twitter and Facebook outmaneuvered Digg. In terms of missteps, there were quite a few. Digg managed to alienate its core community. The user culture of Digg changed dramatically when it became apparent that the company was focused more on monetizing its services rather than keeping the social news aggregation of features pure. This all came to a head when the other key misstep came to pass.
In the summer of 2010, Digg messed up its long awaited re-launch and it has never recovered since then. Rose also said that one of Digg’s problems was it was slow to respond to its user base’s criticism. The end result was the Digg community voted with its feet and moved on to other places. Twitter and Facebook definitely benefitted from this exodus because by that point, Twitter and Facebook had evolved to such a level that many of the media aggregation and social sharing functionalities of Digg were present in those services. Another factor Rose mentioned that contributed to the failure of Digg was that he felt that the website was trying to clone Facebook and Twitter’s features. He said that this went against the core Digg experience. The thinking obviously is if Digg is trying to be Twitter and Facebook, why not just cut out the middleman and go straight to Twitter and Facebook. Apparently many users were asking this question and again voted with their feet. At the end of the day, Digg’s formerly formidable traffic numbers started to erode very, very quickly. It was only recently with its recent integration of Facebook that some of Digg’s traffic started to come back, but it may not be a permanent solution to the key problems facing the company.
Rose diagnosed the problem of Digg primarily in terms of technological evolution in social networking. Twitter and Facebook evolved to such an extent that, at least according to Rose’s analysis, it suggests that there was no space left for Digg. He was saying that Twitter evolved to be the place where people search for late breaking news. Facebook on the other hand evolved to a place where people shared links. These two features formed the two core foundations of what made Digg so compelling early on. Still, it did not evolve quickly enough while Facebook and Twitter pretty much ate up its core functions. It would have still survived because of a massive loyal base. Unfortunately, its efforts at monetizing itself and looking to be a bigger commercial player alienated much of its community. Also the redesign of Digg turned off a lot of its former fans.
There are many causes to Digg’s demise. It is interesting to note that the company is still alive. It just got bought out at a very low price, but the website is still alive and its functionalities still remain intact. It would be very interesting to see if the company can be turned around in light of the many lessons it can draw from its experience. One thing is for sure and that is part of what made Digg such a compelling website was that people that wanted to index their pages on search engines can submit it to Digg and get indexed quickly. By making the website a no-follow, this cut off a major flow in the submission volume. This is one factor that many people that are analyzing Digg’s demise including Mr. Rose failed to focus on. This is a key factor. Submission volume dictates the amount of content, the amount of content dictates the amount of interaction, and the amount of interaction dictates the amount of traffic. They are all layered together. It is definitely one lesson that many web 2.0 sites need to pay attention to.