As any start-up blogger knows, no matter how great (or poor) your content is, getting people to read it is the big trick. Tech Op/Ed, for example, is here for general technology editorials, but I wanted to get some IT management topics off my chest first, and these articles appeal to a certain niche of readers. Finding those niche readers, however, has turned up an interesting side note.
To generate tech blog traffic, common wisdom says that one should submit their articles to Digg… which is a social content site founded on tech articles. In addition, I submitted each article to Reddit, a more general social news site. Both Digg and Reddit have their own voting mechanisms for bringing content to their “Front Page”, where more eyes will see it. Digg, clearly, is the 500 lb. gorilla. Sites that are fortunate(?) enough to see the Digg front page can be flooded out of existence by the Digg reading frenzy known as “The Digg Effect”.
But as any Digger will tell you, the front page is not always where the best stuff is. Rigged voting, duplicative links, rehashed content, referenced links, etc… permeate the front page along side the genuine content. But for every “undeserving” item on the front page, thousands of articles are submitted, drowning out articles that should be getting a second glance.
At the same time, only a microscopic fraction of the Digg audience will vote on articles, so there is a clear slant toward content providers who have a loyal (or paid off) group of Diggers bringing their content to the front page, whether it’s good or not.
Reddit, of course, has the same issues, but Reddit has a smaller user base, so submission congestion doesn’t seem to be quite as big of a problem.
Either way, since Technology is the topic, I expected that the Digg audience would take to the articles on Tech Op/Ed at a far greater rate than those on Reddit… and that’s what surprised me.
Across the 15 articles on Tech Op/Ed, submitted to both the Digg and Reddit audiences, Reddit has referred traffic at a 10:1 ratio over Digg. Even StumbleUpon has outpaced Digg in sending readers. In fact, standard Google searches have yielded as many hits as those using Digg.
On the flip side, Digg readers spend twice as much time, and visit twice as many pages on Tech Op/Ed as their Reddit counterparts. So, Digg readers who visit are seemingly more interested in the content, as was expected, but a lot fewer of them see it… so what gives?
Well, the major flaw on Digg may not be the rigging of votes after all, it may simply be the volume of submissions. On average, so far as I have been able to tell, an article submitted to Digg has about 1 minute or less on the first page of the Upcoming Stories queue. If it doesn’t achieve enough votes to make it to the front page in about 10 minutes or less, it never will. The shear volume of submissions ensures that no one can keep up with the incoming submissions, so only a tiny fraction of the already small fraction of the Digg audience that actually reads the Upcoming Stories queue ever sees a given article in the queue, and if they don’t vote the instant it goes online, it’s gone at the next refresh.
So, sure, if someone posts a picture of Paris Hilton wiping her cell phone on her boob, that’s going to the front page, rigged or not…. but for common content of interest, rigging votes on Digg may very well be the only way to make the cut.
Reddit, on the other hand, has a more sane volume of submissions, seemingly fewer duplications, referenced links, etc. Also, it has a mechanism by which articles that receive votes get a bump in the incoming submission queue instead of perpetually sliding into the ether. This may be granting articles the extra time necessary for a fair hearing amongst those paying attention to new submissions on Reddit. So it’s not that more Reddit readers are interested in Tech Op/Ed, it’s just that more Reddit readers are aware of Tech Op/Ed submissions.
That translates to a 10:1 margin over Digg, even though we’re talking Technology, Digg’s chief marketplace. Even if my analysis of the reasons is faulty, there is still a clear peculiarity. These are Google Analytics results collected over the life of Tech Op/Ed… so while your mileage may vary… this is my experience.
The world of social news is still young, and there are still of a lot of things to try. We’ll see how Digg and Reddit evolve and I’ll make sure to check the stats again in another 6 mo.
UPDATE EDITORIAL – It has been sad, but interesting, watching this article getting upvoted, then downvoted on Reddit by those thinking they can prevent abuse of Reddit by burying articles that cast it in a positive light. IMHO, burying valid articles to achieve a political end *is* abuse… but that’s an issue for another article.