Social news aggregator site Digg.com has unveiled more new features designed to satisfy users unhappy with the direction the site has gone since a botched redesign attempt last year. Interestingly, some of the features look promising enough that longtime users may be distracted for a few days before remembering the fact that there are still massive issues Digg needs to fix before possibly recapturing its lost user base and site community activity.
In what looked to be the biggest attention-grabbing move, Digg released a new feature on submissions showing the amount of page views they received as a result of their Digg exposure. The last time Digg gave users some indication of the page views their submissions generated was when the site’s now-discontinued toolbar displayed them. That number was notoriously inaccurate but at least gave submitters and idea of the traffic success they had achieved.
The new feature reminded some users of what they see on Buzzfeed.com. “On my Buzzfeed account I regularly check the feature that shows how much traffic I bring to Buzzfeed,” said one longtime Digg user. “I am not sure if these new Digg numbers are showing the click-throughs to my site or just how many views the Digg submission page is getting. Digg wasn’t explicit on that. It should be interesting to see what my analytics tell me.” Buzzfeed allows people and publishers to purchase traffic referrals. Stumbleupon.com does the same thing. Reddit and Digg do not. Some have speculated that Digg may do this someday.
In another move sure to satisfy users of the site, Digg released a feature highlighting some of the people who promoted stories onto the site’s front page in the previous day. The unveiling of such features seems to be an indication that Digg believes rewarding heavier users of the site is a way to build up traffic, and possibly compete better with rival news aggregator Reddit.com. Reddit gained thousands of new visitors and increased traffic when Digg’s redesign attempt failed to satisfy users in late August of 2010.
In its latest announcement, Digg also made good on a recent promise to end the practice of allowing publishers to submit several submissions a day via an RSS feed. That process garnered criticism because it prevented regular users from discovering and submitting stories themselves from many top sites. This change also appears to be another way Digg hopes to increase user engagement on the site by allowing people to have more control of what gets submitted.
The changes will make many users happy, but large problems still linger that prevent users from spending much time on the site. Many people lament that not enough stories are allowed to reach the site’s front page, especially on nights and weekends. They also complain that Digg search has poor functionality. Regular users have no simple and convenient way to discover all the stories from sites like, say, Physorg or Cracked that hit Digg’s front page recently. The “My News” section of the site isn’t popular with many users. Digg staff is often criticized for what many users say are inappropriate or poor story choices on the “Staff Picks” section on the front page.
As a longtime supporter of Digg I admit I am heartened by the most recent changes. Allowing users to see how many page views they are driving to their sites is a welcome touch of transparency. It takes guts on the part of Digg to let their traffic referral generation be seen so publicly even though it is well known they don’t deliver as well as they use to. It is possible that new and old community members alike will now start coming to the site to try to grab some of those very public page views. My concern is, however, they will continue to be discouraged and stymied by irrelevant portions of the site, search that doesn’t work, poor category selection and a stagnant front page. One also wonders if, at this point, it is too late to expect people to come back even if those things are ever “fixed.” People find new homes on the social web very quickly, and maybe there’s just no going back.