Graphic by Chris Ritter
Before Reddit, there was Digg. Stories were “dugg” by users, and the ones that received enough diggs to hit the site’s front page found themselves on the receiving end of a traffic deluge from the site’s nearly 30 million unique visitors at its peak. Long story short: There was an ill-conceived redesign, and it died. Then a little company called Betaworks purchased Digg for $500,000 earlier in July and brought it back to life — the brand, that is, more than the site. Though it still does the same basic thing as before — surfacing the most interesting stories on the Web — the new Digg bares little resemblance to the old Digg, in form or function.
When the bare-bones new Digg relaunched this summer, there were questions as to whether it would work — whether it’d be able to survive, much less reclaim the old magic of its glory days, given the new, social media environment. On top of becoming one of my favorite front pages in tech over the last couple of months, according to the latest data from the BuzzFeed Network for the month of October, it is working. (Some quick background: The BuzzFeed Network is a set of sites like TMZ and The Daily Mail that altogether have over 300 million users a month, not to be confused with buzzfeed.com itself.)
According to the data from the BuzzFeed Network, Digg referral traffic to BuzzFeed Network sites grew 39% month to month in October, driving over a million referrals — Digg hasn’t moved over a million referrals to BuzzFeed Network sites since January. In other words, Digg is back and kicking again. Which is impressive in a sense, given that Digg is barely a social news site anymore. While it’s slowly bringing back user features, the power of a “digg” is not what it used to be, with algorithms and editors determining what’s on the front page, a turnaround from its user-driven heyday. (And Digg’s traffic resurgence isn’t a matter of a rising tide lifting all boats either, since Reddit referrals to the BuzzFeed network dropped 7% of the same period, and StumbleUpon fell to 3 million referrals, its lowest level of referral traffic since July of 2011.)
To be clear, Digg has a long way to go — even StumbleUpon, in a moment of serious decline as a referrer, is still driving three times the traffic of Digg. And while I suspect that Quantcast’s numbers aren’t entirely correct, they show its unique visitor count continuing to slide. So, while Digg reaching a million referrals is a good thing — that’s a fair amount of traffic, and had it not made it that far, I doubt we’d be talking about it again at all — whether or not it’s going to be a site that matters once more is a question that we’re a ways out from answering. But in the meantime, it sure is nice to have it back.