What Went Wrong for Digg?

Please enjoy this guest post analyzing how Digg went from being tops in the social bookmarking race to where it stands today.

By now, you have probably heard that Digg has had a rather unfortunate fall from grace. There was a time when it was a big and exciting tool that had everyone talking:

  • The ability to browse through sites that were similar to the ones you liked?
  • And to promote the pages you thought other people should see?
  • Like a Pandora but for general browsing?

It was brilliant – and there was a definite buzz around it when word first got out, which helped it to become one of the number one places to get the latest news and articles. It was no surprise at the apex of Digg’s success that Google were reportedly offering sums around the two million dollar mark for the young site.

But then something went wrong and the site tragically fell from the race, to the point where it was eventually purchased for a relatively measly $500,000. Not chump change for you or me, but compared to two million? Ouch.

So what went wrong? And what lessons are there here that we can learn from to avoid suffering the same fate?

Here we will look at the decisions and events that transpired to hamper Digg’s success and that eventually practically buried it.

The Redesign and Replatforming Issues

The first signs of trouble showed around 2010 when Digg launched a huge redesign that was reportedly envisioned as a response to Twitter. This revamp removed the thumbs down button. It sported the option to ‘follow’ your friends and publishers (sound familiar?), so that you could see the latest content they were Digging, and a very blue and white color scheme that could have you mistake it for Twitter or Facebook’s brother.

Whether or not you liked the direction they were taking the site, however, there were serious problems from the get go as the site was bombarded by large amounts of traffic. The site was slow to load and had problems with the new Facebook or Twitter log-in options. And a combination of these problems, coupled with the apparent identity crisis, saw a dip in traffic of 24% that year. Then-CEO Kevin Rose said that he ‘thought [he] had a better solution for consuming news’ but had made a mistake.

What Could They Have Done Differently?

Mistakes happen though, right? And there’s nothing wrong with replatforming per-say, so what can we learn from this story, and what could Digg have done differently?

Well first of all, it’s important to note that this replatforming was the very definition of reactionary and left behind the core principles that made Digg… Digg. Digg was already a successful service that had a loyal fan base, and any changes should have been iterations aimed at improving upon the service they already offered – not dropping their strategy altogether in favour of something that outright copied the competition.

It upset loyal users and destroyed their USP. So, lesson number one is to stay true to yourself, and to stay true to your fans who have stood by you. At the same time we can also take from this that it’s important to make small changes (iterations) that don’t represent too big of a paradigm shift and scare everyone off.

In fact, they needn’t have just jumped in blind like this at all. They should have generally made an effort to have a good look before they leapt. They should have thought to make sure that the service and servers could stand up to the bandwidth demands that would be placed on them. They should have done some market research, focus groups and split tests to see how their changes would be received by the general public and existing users.

So the other lesson? Caution, planning and thinking of every possible outcome.

Avoid making these mistakes in your own replatforming. I can’t promise you you’ll make your fortune at last, but at least you can avoid taking a big step backwards that might just become your undoing.

Danish is a well known marketing executive residing in Kuala Lumpur. For more than 15 years, he has been working for malaysia web design that is known to offer a comprehensive list of services to meet all web design and development needs of their clients.

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