Digg has made the beta of Digg Newsrooms available to the public. Newsrooms are topical channels (like Technology, Politics or Entertainment) that use awards as incentives to motivate users to curate them. Users cannot currently create their own newsroom, but Digg says it is "interested in exploring" the option.
Newsrooms display an activity feed showing Diggs and buries by individual users in the newsroom. They also implement the Newswire, released in August, which surfaces more stories and user activity. Digg has gone all in with the complete overhaul it launched last year to make Digg more social, despite user uprisings and declining traffic influence. Newsrooms are part of the effort to double down. Can Digg pull it off?
Making Digg More Social
Newsrooms are the latest in a series of major product updates at Digg to reinvent it as a real-time, game-driven news room. The original Digg aggregated news using a simple, democratic system of user up-votes and down-votes. The contributions of individual users were not as important as the mass effect. Digg was easily gamed, though, and its influence began to suffer from the karma-driven system at Reddit, not to mention the massive network effects of Facebook and Twitter.
Digg had to completely reinvent itself, and it had to do so without founder and former CEO Kevin Rose, who left the company shortly after the launch of its controversial version 4. Digg's new angle was to make news curation more social and reputation-driven. Many old Digg users were not pleased. But Digg has remained committed to this approach, as is evident from Newsrooms. The process of surfacing content on Digg now relies heavily on the personalities of its users.
Getting Stronger Signals
Newsrooms pull in outside social signals from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to determine rankings. They also rely on the reputations of Digg users who have voted on the story. Users are then rewarded with badges and ranked on a leaderboard within the Newsroom. These are intense, almost competitive social features that Digg users of yore would hardly recognize.
But the interesting part about Newsrooms is that they work behind the scenes. The Digg front page still looks like the old one, concentrating on the stories themselves and their numbers of Diggs. Newsrooms are a way for Digg to generate more churn and improve the quality of the site-wide listings while also helping users look deeper for content by topic. The social features are there to keep the power users busily curating.
A Social Web Assembly Line
Newsrooms are also tuned to surface content that doesn't yet have many Diggs or is automatically pulled from outside Digg. They display those stories on the Newswire and the Newsroom page to get Newsroom followers to work on them, surfacing them to more Digg users and funneling them toward the front page.
It's an intricate model, almost like a social Web assembly line, and it gives motivated Digg users plenty to do. Digg has widened its stance and distinguished itself more clearly with this update. We'll see if badges and rankings are enough to motivate Digg users to work as a team.
Check out our old 2006 interview with Digg founder Kevin Rose for an interesting look into how far Digg has come.
Do you think badges, leaderboards and other game mechanics are good motivations for Web users? Share your thoughts in the comments.