Last week I mentioned that Netscape had launched their redesigned, Digg-like home page. It looks like they’ve stumbled out of the gate by offering to pay top digg users to switch services. The controversy highlights the one element that makes social news sites like Digg hum: a critical mass of community members. In this case, the focus is on Netscape’s lack of such a community.
Briefly, if you’re not familiar with social news sites, here’s how they work: You submit a story to them and then the community can vote them up or down. The most popular stories make it to the front page. A blog post, for example, that makes it to the front page of Digg can result in a massive surge of traffic to that blog.
Social news sites demonstrate day and and day out the network effect that these new community-centric technologies propagate. A little popularity goes a long way, especially if a story is picked up by the right people, those who have a large circle of online "friends." SEOmoz.org points this phenomenon out in a blog post that demonstrates that the top 100 Digg users are responsible for 56% of that site’s home page content.
You’ll notice that, like many blogs, mine includes links to make it easy for people to Digg my posts (see the "Add to" links below). It’s worthwhile to include such links with your posts but, as the SEOmoz.org posts points out, the more you actively participate at Digg, the more likely your submissions will make it to the front page.
Membership, it turns out, has it’s privileges.
P.S. Digg recently launched two tools to watch stories on the site in real time. Digg stack displays popular stories as they are "dugg" and allows you to see historical data on a given story to see how many "diggs" it got over time. Digg Swarm draws a circle for stories as they’re "dugg."