It wasn’t that long ago that, for bloggers and other Webmasters, being on the front page of Digg was something of a Holy Grail. It meant an instant tidal wave of traffic, a lot of great publicity and, of course, major bragging rights.
However, Digg’s traffic, since the launch of the “New Digg” in August has waned. Though it is certainly still a traffic powerhouse, it’s no longer end goal for bloggers and webmasters, especially now that the front page of Digg is different for almost every logged in user.
In short, Digg is no longer the guaranteed traffic rush that it once was and, though sites continue to target it, it is no longer a lone champion or clear leader like it once was.
So what site or service could take Digg’s place? It’s a hard question to answer, especially since there may never be another site quite like the old Digg. But there are candidates that could do it or at least create something similar. Consider the following:
Reddit is the natural choice for most. As a social news site, it’s similar to Digg in many ways, namely that users submit stories and vote them up or down until they reach the front page or fall off, but it’s also very different in many regards as well.
First, where all of Digg’s content links out, much of the content that climbs the charts in Reddit is self posts and image links. Most of the links that do point to other sites go to mainstream media outlets or a small number of high-profile blogs. Very few blogs, especially ones not about technology or politics, reach the default front page of Reddit.
But also like Digg, Reddit is fragmented with the front page being different from user to user and users being further divided into subreddits. Though Reddit can be a huge driver of traffic (according to Alexa it’s been more popular since New Digg was launched), from a webmaster standpoint, it’s a completely different beast than Digg, especially in terms of targeting.
Many think that the problem is that sites like Digg have become obsolete and the Web has gone from social news to social networking. If that’s the case, Twitter is a logical choice as it certainly has a great deal of traffic, millions of active users and, most importantly, an extremely viral nature.
However, few people read everything in their Twitter stream and nearly everyone sticks to their particular circle, no matter how large or small it is. This means that, for a story to generate an extremely large volume of traffic, it has to either be picked up in a very viral way by hundreds of separate users or simply be tweeted out by a major Twitter user or celebrity.
Facebook has many of the same advantages of Twitter including an even larger user base, powerful sharing tools and a robust network of tightly-connected individuals. However, Facebook just isn’t nearly as viral as Twitter, though people routinely share links on Facebook, they don’t share links from those they are as following as Twitter, partially because Facebook doesn’t have a “retweet” culture like Twitter.
Facebook, for the most part, works best with sites that already have a large volume of traffic, giving them a good number of people to post their content. Of course, as with Twitter, there is as lot of traffic to be found by targeting power users, however, that’s hardly a substitute for the (slightly) more democratic Digg.
Like Reddit, StumbleUpon passed Digg in traffic (according to Alexa) around the time of New Digg. It’s also a democratic site and one that a wide variety of sites seem to do well on. Users Stumble posts, users who might be interested in it are shown the article, they then vote up or down and, the more thumbis up a page gets, the more views it gets.
Indeed StumbleUpon can drive a LOT of traffic. But StumbleUpon is not a site as much as it is an extension or a bookmarklet. Also, as great as a StumbleUpon swarm is, the effect tends to be more drawn out, taking, at times, over days.
This means that there is no front page to reach and no way to know how large the swarm was, other than looking at your traffic.
Of the four above, StumbleUpon is probably the most Digg-like, that is, at least for bloggers. It provides a strong burst of traffic, one that can, at its peak, easily compete with the Digg effect. It also has a good combination of democracy and targeting that gives just about any site a good shot at seeing massive amounts of traffic, so long as it has good content.
But that being said, there’s nothing out there right now, nor likely to be for some time, that’s like what Digg was. There’s no runaway leader is social news, no site that every blogger pines to get their work on the front page of. While there are some great niche alternatives, there’s nothing with the same presence and dominance as old Digg.
However, that might not be such a bad thing. Given that many felt that the traffic from Digg was of such poor quality, the alternatives that are out there may not generate as much traffic, but they may generate higher-quality traffic. This means fewer visitors, but more actual readers.
In short, the direction social news and social networking is taking is one that gets away from a system with one king that serves everyone and provides a tidal wave of traffic to a system that better targets content to the interests of readers, sending fewer visitors, but more engaged ones.
Though bloggers may not feel the high of a Digg effect for some time, they may feel a much greater one, the joy that comes from a steady stream of dedicated traffic built up over a long period of time.