The Decline and Fall of Tech on Digg

If you’re a fan of digg, you’ve probably been noticing that tech stories are becoming less and less a feature of the social news site. The reason? Digg is attempting to attract a large mainstream user base. Just how low has tech sunk in digg? We have new data that shows that the number of frontpage tech stories is halving every year on digg.

We last wrote about this trend in February, along with Center Networks. The most interesting stats though came from Richard Cunningham, who used the digg API to create some trend graphs showing how technology stories were on the decline in digg. I contacted Richard again this week to ask for an update to those stats. Richard kindly agreed and so here are some exclusive new charts showing the latest topic trends on digg.

The first graph shows how Technology stories, represented by the dark blue area, have as a percentage of all popular stories dropped steadily since the beginning of 2006. To put this into context, on 1 January 2006 tech stories made up 78% of the total popular stories (i.e. stories that made it onto the digg frontpage). By end of March 2008, that percentage had dropped to 18-20%. In fact, this data shows that the percentage of Tech stories made popular is roughly halving every year:

1st Week in March 2006: 75.72%

1st Week in March 2007: 37.89%

1st Week in March 2008: 19.78%

Currently the most popular category is World & Business, which accounts for just over 22% of the total. The Offbeat category is now around the same as Tech, with 18-19%.

Percentage of Stories Made Popular (by category):

Here is the same data with actual numbers. It’s hard to make out the numbers on this page, but you can click on all of these graphs to get the full versions.

Number of Stories Made Popular (by category):

Now let’s look at how the Tech category is made up, by sub-category. The following 2 graphs show that Tech News is still the leading type of Tech frontpage story in the Tech category, but Apple is also very popular.

Percentage of Tech Stories Made Popular (by sub-category):

Number of Tech Stories Made Popular (by sub-category):

Top Tech Sources

Finally, in our post in February we looked at the sources of tech frontpage stories, concluding that just a few sites were dominating: Ars Technica, Engadget and Gizmodo (with niche tech sites like TorrentFreak and MacRumors also doing very well). I manually did some calculations to see if that has changed over the past couple of months. The answer: it’s still the same select few sites who dominate, but their number of frontpage stories is declining too.

Conclusion

Is it time to accept that Digg is no longer an equivalent to Slashdot, and that it is as much a mainstream news site as say BusinessWeek or People magazine? I’m sure that’s what Digg management want us (and their potential buyers!) to think. Judging by these stats, they make a good case. But at what cost? Is Digg’s audience growing, or stagnating as its core techie audience goes elsewhere to sites like Mixx, Reddit, Hacker News and maybe even back to Slashdot?

The first 4 graphs were provided by Richard Cunningham, a developer who is
currently working on a private beta lifestream service called friendbinder.

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