By now you have heard about the user revolts and the general feedback on the new Digg. Some people like it, others understand that the stream-based interface was implemented to compete with Facebook and Twitter, and there are lots of people that just hate it. Well, it looks like those people that hate the new Digg are making their lack of presence felt. ReadWriteWeb reports that Digg traffic is in freefall:

At its peak, Digg had over 40 million unique visitors every month. Since the launch of the redesign, Digg’s traffic has been in free fall, though. Traffic from visitors in the U.S. has declined 26% since the redesign went live.

Granted, this is a US specific number, but the article also mentions that UK traffic has also tanked, dropping 34%. These are unique visitor numbers, so with any statistic you need to be a little wary. So, let’s complete the picture and look at more than just uniques.

Because the new digg uses a stream based interface, pageviews have dropped off a cliff.

Pageviews comparison of Digg, Reddit and Mixx from AlexaObviously, this is not a good metric for a stream based site as the page views are more like site visits. The pageviews per user has dropped in the same manner. One interesting item to not is the obvious rise in Reddit traffic which has been sustained throughout September. Obviously, Alexa is not a great measuring tool, but it is current and shows the general global trend. Compete’s US data is not available for September, so a comparison of the trends could not be made.

Another interesting graph is the “Time On Site” metric. This shows a much more interesting trend for these sites:

Time On Site comparison for Digg, Reddit and Mixx from AlexaThere is an obvious drop in this metric around the same time as the drop in pageviews. Even if the measurement is a bit fuzzy, Digg had been in a slow decline during the previous 6 months anyway. Reddit’s engagement has been steadily increasing during the same span.

Given the stream, these metrics are not the best measure of engagement, but the “Time On Site” metric is defintely interesting. The best gauge of Digg activity is the Technology Top News page. If you look at that page for the top stories in the past 24 hours, you will see something interesting. First, the top story at the time of this writing is the Read Write Web story about Digg traffic that I linked to in the beginning of this post. Currently, it has 456 Diggs and 97 comments. This is fairly normal for one of the top stories of the day. However, you will see that activity quickly drops off after the top 3 stories, only 5 of the stories have more than 200 Diggs and 8 of the stories have more than 10 comments.

This is really low activity for Digg historically. A minimum of 200 Diggs used to be required for the front page of technology, sometimes 250 were needed if a post was submitted by a power-Digger. Now, the 15th story on the popular page has only 106 Diggs. Digg was also known for having a lot of comments on popular stories so, not having more than 10 comments is a major indicator of the lack of engagement.

I was never a heavy Digg user, but the lack of a bury button definitely makes it feel like Diggers have less control over what hits goes popular. I also think that the redesign makes it harder to contribute and share the site. All of the basic features are there, but the placement of things changes the usability.

One of the biggest issues I have with the redesign is the lack of subtopics. Because Technology was such a popular topic, having subtopics for Programming, Apple, etc was a great way to see things that were somewhat popular but not quite front page popular. Basically, by moving to a stream with fewer topics, they have killed the depth of content on Digg. Depth was a critical component because it takes so long for a story to become popular. A stream works well for breaking news, and that seems to be Digg’s new target. I believe this is a big reason for the drop in traffic, they tried to move from a “top stories of the day” site to a “breaking news” site. Yes, Digg needed to do something to start growing again, but it looks like they hit the bury button and not the reboot button.

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