What Happened To Digg? How Digg Failure Brought To Reddit’s Success

  • Digg is an American news aggregator website originally founded by Jay Adelson and Kevin Rose in 2004. After enjoying four years of dominance between 2006 and 2010, the platform was sold in 2012 for the paltry sum of $500,000.
  • Digg’s decline began with the emergence of competitors such as Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook, with the latter’s Like button an instant hit with site owners. A complete site revamp in 2010 also alienated users who were not consulted before many popular features were removed.
  • Digg’s reputation as a democratic social news site was tarnished by power users who used their followings to influence the articles appearing on the Digg home page. As the ailing platform struggled to make a profit, the home page was further corrupted by sponsored placements. The platform still exists today with many of its original features reinstated.

Origin Story

Digg is an American news aggregator founded by Jay Adelson and Kevin Rose in 2004.

Digg was once an extremely successful social platform that disrupted the news industry with a curated front page of popular and shareable web content.

Users could vote such content up or down, which Digg called digging and burying respectively. 

The platform reached peak popularity between 2006 and 2010, with the site attracting close to 200 million unique visits per year.

Independent websites mentioned on the Digg homepage frequently crash due to the sudden influx of traffic, a phenomenon called the “Digg effect”. 

In 2012, however, after a total of 350 million upvotes, the site announced technology investment company Betaworks would acquire it.

The purchase price of $500,000 was a fraction of the $160 million Digg was thought to be worth during its heyday

Let’s take a look at how Digg fell from grace.

The emergence of competitors

The Digg button, which allowed users to submit a site to Digg, suddenly had competition.

The Facebook Like button was launched in April 2010 and could be found on 350,000 sites just five months later. 

Around the same time, Digg had to deal with the rapid emergence of social news sites Reddit and, to a lesser extent, Twitter. 

The impact of this extra competition was exacerbated by a Google Algorithm update that same year, which made Digg links less valuable in search result rankings.

User experience issues

With increased competition and declining traffic, Digg decided to act with a now-infamous site redesign in August 2010.

The new design was widely criticized by users because it removed many popular features, including the ability to bury posts, save favorites, post videos, and sort by subcategory.

Moreover, the platform became buggy, and users were frustrated that they couldn’t communicate with other users directly.

Perhaps most damaging of all, the updates were implemented without regard for user feedback. 

This alienated Digg’s user base and caused mass migration to Reddit, maintaining user trust by remaining consistent throughout.

Platform abuse 

Digg’s reputation as a democratic news service where everyone could submit links and vote quickly devolved into an oligarchy of power users.

Each power user disproportionately influenced votes because of their large and devoted following.

Whenever they submitted a link to Digg, their followers would game the system by populating the front page with their content.

Investor pressure to make Digg profitable also resulted in the essence of the platform being abused.

The platform removed popular features to copy the business model of more profitable websites.

Decision-makers also changed the ranking algorithm when the site was redesigned so that corporate-sponsored articles were published on the home page. 

Sale and relaunch

Digg was sold in three separate parts in July 2012.

The Digg Brand, website, and technology were sold to Betaworks, while 15 staff transferred to The Washington Post. Professional network LinkedIn also purchased multiple patents for approximately $4 million.

Betaworks relaunched Digg in 2012, with many of its original features reinstated.

However, the platform never recovered as competitors such as Reddit took most of the market share. 

Six years later, Digg was acquired by advertising company BuySellAds.com for an undisclosed amount.

How Digg’s failure set the stage for Reddit’s success

As Digg failed, Reddit took off.

The platform has become among the most popular social network of our times, thanks to the ability to have subcommunities create their digital environments so that users can freely express themselves.

Reddit Business Model

Reddit is a social news and discussion website that also rates web content. The platform was created in 2005 after founders Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman met venture capitalist Paul Graham and pitched the company as the “front page of the internet.” Reddit makes money primarily via advertising. It also offers premium membership plans.

Reddit Marketing

Some people find marketing on Reddit outdated, yet where Facebook and Instagram are today’s traditional marketing channels, Reddit has the nature of being unconventional amongst them. Reddit can be a great viral channel to cheaply amplify your brand and fill the top of the funnel.

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