Digg's Demise: A Lesson in How Not To Run a Social News Site - Page 2

Co-founders Leave, Site Wobbles

In August 2007, Digg modified its main user interface, mostly in the profile area. Users, who get accustomed to formats and eschew changes (just ask Facebook about that one), didn't like it. Three years later, it changed again, and more users didn't like it.

Websites are all about usability and look and feel. Subscribers want to feel welcomed and nurtured; after all, they intentionally signed up to use the site. Digg's August 2010 redesign not only wasn't nurturing, it was a flat-out disaster, according to many former users who, ironically, used competing networks like Twitter to complain about it.

In the redesign, Digg axed a popular feature: the "bury" button for users' thumbs-down recommendations. Without a way to say "no" to balance "yes," users were handcuffed.

Digg also neglected its most active power users, who invested a lot of time lauding and degrading stories they had read on the Web. But rather than promote activity by its frequent users -- and best customers -- Digg did nothing. No wonder those users eventually fell away and found other sites that exhibited more appreciation for them.

After its co-founders and co-backbones, Kevin Rose (Google ventures) and Jay Adelson (SimpleGeo), left the company in 2010, it had peaked in both relevance and usefulness. Digg essentially became a spineless amoeba.

Mobile Strategy Tanked

Digg never launched a successful mobile format, which certainly did not help matters.

Most importantly, Digg never figured out a way to monetize those millions of page views, despite partnerships with Facebook and others. Listening closer to users and enacting a smart mobile strategy ultimately may not have saved the site, but they would have helped the business tremendously.

To paraphrase legendary American storyteller Woody Guthrie, whose 100th birthday was July 14: "So long, Digg, it's been good to know ya."

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features and Analysis for eWEEK. Twitter: @editingwhiz

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...