Will "Digg Breaking News" Get Users Digging Again?

One week ago TechCrunch reported that Digg is introducing another new feature called ‘Breaking News’. The purpose of this feature is to introduce human editors who will ‘pick’ certain stories and feature them on a separate section on the home page and all category pages.

We’ll explore further whether “Breaking News” is a smart move for Digg and how can they improve it. I’ll also talk about “Digg My News” and compare it with this new feature because I think both have a lot of similarities when you look deeper. Let’s get started.

Is Anyone Using “My News” at All?

The most visible new feature in Digg v4 was the ‘My News’ section where you could see what your friends are digging and, based on that, make decisions on what you should digg as well.

This feature was introduced weeks ago. But did it work? Going forward, are people using it at all?

According to my observations, not really. So far I haven’t seen any major reaction to this new feature. If it was useful at all, I’d at least see some opinion on it on Twitter. But nothing happened…seems no one is using it. Why?

Individualization vs. Segmentation

This, in my opinion, is the major reason why Digg “My News” failed. They went with the thinking that every individual is unique and wants his home page to be personalized. This is far from the truth if you ask me. Instead of individualization, what Digg should have done is segmentation or finding the common reasons why people go on their sites. Reasons like:

  • I want to see what’s going on around the web (the Digg user community is big enough to spot any major event happening and being covered in the media)
  • I want to read the comments (many people posting hilarious comments on Digg stories)

I don’t know ANYONE, and I mean ANYONE who found “My News” useful in any way. Digg probably wanted to create a ‘social’ experience with this feature but a very limited one. Add friends, digg their stories. That’s it. Communication? Not really (except comments).

Digg Breaking News – So What?

I’ve mentioned the “My News” feature because I think we can make a very good analogy with the new ‘Breaking News’ addition. If you first want to release something, you better have some demand on it. You don’t compete with same products in the same category (in this case, I guess Digg is trying to compete with “Google News” and “Techmeme”) without getting the deeper picture. It’s like LinkedIn trying to compete with Facebook…yes they’re both social networking sites but attract a very different kind of audience. Same here.

Is Digg Breaking News Selecting Only Big/Authority Sites?

If there’s a place where Digg Breaking News fails miserably, it’s here. Over the past 5 days I’ve seen ONLY sites like news.yahoo.com arsechnica.com or whitehouse.gov getting featured as “Staff Picks”.

This has been the primary complain of Digg users since the introduction of Digg v4: a VERY big bias towards already established sites. Nowadays the only way for not-so-popular sites to get on the Digg front page is to either: a) Use some sort of gray or black-hat tactics b) Spam their friends on GTalk with ‘please digg this’ requests.

If Digg REALLY wants to listen to its users it better starts (also) discovering and featuring new sites and not just take the safe bet and go with already established web properties.

Can Digg Make A Comeback with ‘Digg Breaking News’?

I’m actually seeing features like these worsening Digg popularity. I wish them best of luck in their further endeavors, but please, please before releasing any feature, do a bit of MARKET RESEARCH and ask users what they want. If there’s a big lesson to be learned from Digg v4, it’s definitely this one.