Mixx.com is a social news site that seems to have everything going for it. It's got more and better features than Digg, it's been integrated into the websites of a healthy list of huge mainstream media properties and, for the developers out there, it's got one of the most interesting APIs available today.
For some reason, though, it doesn't have much traffic. Mixx will issue a report tomorrow summarizing progress since work began on the site one year ago. The company is releasing traffic stats that show a nearly 3X increase in visitors in May. The surprise after all this good news? Fewer than 1 million people visited Mixx last month, less than 5% of the traffic that competitor Digg saw. Given the circumstances, Mixx's glaring lack of success to date calls a number of things about this industry into question.
Mixx Should Be Big
Mixx functionality is now baked into the websites of USATODAY, LATimes, CNN, NYTimes, Reuters, NPR, Slate, Weather.com and an unknown number of blogs. The company has taken investment from the LA Times, undoubtedly a part of why all these other publishers are willing to consider working with Mixx. No doubt those sites also want to see a phenomenon like Digg that they can win on; publishing partner sites get preferential display on Mixx. That's something that would-be repeat visitors might not appreciate.
You would think that if that integration was executed effectively and if those sites' visitors had any interest in voting on news stories - Mixx should be getting far, far more traffic than it is. There are many sites around the web who get more than 1 million unique viewers each month without links in every story on some of the biggest sites on the internet. Something in implementation or strategy is going very, very wrong.
Mixx users might really like having a small, focused community on the site. That makes sense for them. Having this small a community on the site does not make sense for Mixx's owners and investors though and is not likely to prove a viable situation over the long term. Maybe the site's traffic will more than double next month, though, and perhaps that will happen again in July.
Introduction to User Experience Has Been Weak
Until only recently, first time visitors to Mixx were greeted with an incredibly hostile landing page containing a joke that couldn't have gone over well with new visitors to the site. When they clicked on the Mixx button on a partner page, to vote for a story, visitors were taken to a page that read: "Stop right there - we're going to have to see some ID." Thankfully that page was replaced with a proper landing page days after the CNN partnership began, and it could only have hurt unique visitors so much, but it sure seemed wacky.
Mixx isn't bragging about the number of registered users it has, why does it require users to register in order to participate on the site? Traffic from CNN is a beautiful thing, why not be thankful and let all of convert to users who have interacted with the site whether they've created an account or not?
Does Mainstream Media Even Want to Get It?
More to the point, just like CNN puts links to headlines from The Onion on its front page with no mention of them being satire - so too do these big publishers' efforts with Mixx seem poorly executed. Integration with social media services, particularly ones that take readers off-site, appear to be something that big publishers are doing begrudgingly and in a half-baked way.
Maybe mainstream media readers don't want to click on widgets, don't want to create more accounts on websites unknown to them and maybe they don't even want to vote on the news! Those seem like potential takeaways from a glimpse at Mixx's traffic. It's an awful shame and we hope that something can be done to expose more people to the innovative work going on there.