The Digg Formula

Digg is a news aggregation site similar to Slashdot, that has received a lot of attention over the past year or so. The concept behind Digg is pretty simple, have a Slashdot type site that allows users to submit stories, but users get to pick which stories are published in the various sections. If a story gets “dugg” enough, it will be published on the front page. Digg also features the usual comment section, along with blog post capabilities, and a few other nice tools.

The characteristic that sets Digg apart from many similar sites, is the attention to detail in design and appearance. Digg.com has a nice modern appearance, and people can simple click on the big “Digg it” buttons to vote a story up. The user voting also scales well with the speed of the Internet. Stories that may take hours for an editor to look at in Slashdot, can make it to the Digg front page in minutes. Perhaps one of the most notable advancements with Digg was the use of a form of affiliate marketing. People put “digg it” buttons on millions of web pages now with the hopes that people will vote their articles up.

I usually visit Digg once or twice a day to scan their news offerings. Everyday I read about some new “digg clone.” Everyday there is at least one front page article about Netscape, Slashdot, or Yahoo “Cloning Digg.” I’ve read so many of these stories, that I was motivated to post this entry. There is absolutely nothing original about the Digg concept. Short of the user interface, Digg is just a new spin on an old concept. A collection of features from many other websites. Here is the formula:

The Digg Formula
Slashdot -Insightful Discussion -Editorial Hubris +Kuro5hin +FARK +Professional UI/Graphics + Affiliate Marking

+Slashdot
Slashdot is a news aggregation site with a moderated discussion system. It wasn’t the first “link site,” but it was certainly the most popular, and for awhile it was probably the most influential IT news website period.
-Insightful Discussion
The Digg comment section is full 1-3 line “junk comments.” Its threading only allows for one level. There is not moderation descriptors like “insightful” or “funny.”
-Editorial Hubris
The creators of Digg do not directly manipulate the content that appears on Digg. They can make stories disappear, but the actual user postings are usually unmolested. Slashdot editors love to add their own two cents on every story posted to the front page.
+Kuro5hin
“Digging up” stories is not original, Kuro5hin has been using such a model for over five years.
+FARK
Digg now posts general news, sports, and entertainment in order to appeal to a wider audience. Just like Fark.
+Professional UI/Graphics
Digg has a very polished look, and the ease at which people can vote up or down stories has been critical to their success. Voting UI is where Digg really transformed the user based editorial model seen in Kuro5hin. The voting UI in Digg is now being copied by many other sites.
+ Affiliate Marketing
Millions of web pages have “digg this” links. It may not be affiliate marketing in it’s traditional form, but it does two things. 1. Promotes Digg by having it linked on millions of pages. 2. Promotes the linking site by the possibility of attracting Digg traffic, and generating revenue through advertisements.

Digg is a website that took many good ideas, from many other sites. Perhaps the marquee feature of Digg is the ease a which people can “digg up” stories, but the concept of user based editorial is not new with Digg. The idea that any of these new user driven sites or features are “Digg clones” is a complete fallacy. Sure, the “clone” sites are building upon a key feature of Digg, mainly the ease at which people can “digg up” articles.

If having a vote up/down button is equivalent to “cloning a site,” than Digg is nothing more than a Kuro5hin.org clone. But wait, Kuro5hin is just a Slashdot clone. I guess that makes Digg a Slashdot clone?