Digg: 159,500,000 Reasons Format Matters
Digg, one of the pioneers of social media news, is selling itself off for roughly half a million dollars. If that sounds like a lot, take a step back and recall that WhatsApp, a single app, recently sold for $16 billion the other week. If that’s not enough, consider the fact that the Digg was once valued at $164 million in 2008. So how did its buyer, New York based tech firm BetaWorks, get what was once one of the top sites for what is really pocket change?
Digg was, at heart, one of the first real social media networks. It was created by Kevin Rose, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who wanted to give users a way to manage their own content and media. Digg was the first to introduce the concept of “friends” and “followers,” and for years it seemed that it’s competitors where at least a couple steps behind. That was up until 2010, when the company laid out an interface redesign that triggered massive backlash from its users. Despite the outcry, the company pushed forward with its relaunch, and by the end of the year Digg had lost half of its user base. The company scrambled to retract some of its ill-received updates, including the controversial “Diggbar” that came with version 4.0, but the damage was done. Kevin Rose stepped down as CEO, handing the reigns over to Matt Williams, and the company never clawed its way back up.
There’s a real lesson to be learned from Digg’s fall from grace. The company did nothing to change its core content, yet was still able to alienate half its user base with a single redesign. The devil really is in the details when it comes to layout changes, and it’s why blogs like Engadget and Gizmodo are so touchy when it comes to changing their own. As tech blogs, their audience is even more sensitive to bad updates than others. This, coupled with the fact that the audience could easily switch to another blog (ie. the Verge), means that when updates do happen, they aren’t drastic.
After the acquisition, Digg is going to be relaunced under an entirely new staff and CEO. Betaworks also plans to work Digg into its current news service, News.me. Since no one has heard of News.me, this probably is the end for Digg. Bye buddy, Reddit and I will miss you.