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News Sites Digg Deeper

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Time.com’s traffic trajectory in 2009 has been headed skyward, thanks in no small part to a partnership with Digg.com.

The venerable newsweekly’s Web offshoot has seen its audience balloon by 41 percent versus last year, landing at 6.7 million unique users in July, per Nielsen Online stats. And according to John Cantarella, Time.com’s general manager, some of that growth is attributable to a 164 percent increase in traffic from the social news property since January.

Digg “buttons,” which allow users to recommend news stories by “digging” them, are ubiquitous on content sites across the Internet. Similar buttons are found at the end of text articles from social networkers like Facebook and LinkedIn to other news-sharing platforms like StumbleUpon and Reddit.

In January, Time.com pared down its button collection and added a “smarter” Digg button—one that now lists how many “Diggs” a particular story has received. Then a few months later, at no cost to the site’s parent Time Inc., Digg built a custom widget that ranks the five most Digg’ed stories on Time.com for that day, along with five other stories that are gaining traffic steam.

Since then, the site has gone from placing 55 stories on the Digg home page each month to more than 100, according to Bob Buch, Digg’s vp business development. That sort of exposure is invaluable, considering that Digg reaches nearly 40 million tech-savvy users each month. From January through July, Time.com’s Digg-driven clicks exploded, surging from 500,000 to 1.3 million, said Buch.

Besides Time.com, Digg has had success building a similar widget for rival Newsweek.com, which has received three to five times higher click-through rates than the site’s own “most read” tool. Similarly, Wired.com’s Digg-sourced traffic has doubled in the last six months, per Buch, while the British-based newspaper site Telegraph.co.uk’s Digg-driven page views have jumped elevenfold. “We try and give publishers a set of best practices for using Digg,” said Buch. “Just a little bit more of an integration makes a huge difference.”

The most successful publishers Digg works with take advantage of automated tools like Digg’s widgets, while also making social-media tactics part of the editorial process, explained Buch. “This is not the only piece of the puzzle,” he said.

That’s been the case for Time.com, which underwent a major overhaul in 2006, shifting from a “magazine Web site” to a true daily news site. “It’s been important for us to cultivate a large audience,” particularly when trying to entice advertisers, said Cantarella. He noted that some potential advertisers have indicated an interest in specifically targeting the more active Time.com Diggers.

Recently, Time Inc. has looked to embrace all forms of social media to build its base of uniques for its sites. For example, Time.com currently has 1.3 million followers on Twitter.
“There’s nothing better than people sampling and becoming loyalists,” noted Cantarella.