It has been a while since I looked at the state of social news sites. Given that they have been in the news in the past few months, I figured it is a good time to review them again. At this time, we are only looking at Digg, Mixx and Reddit. I previously included Propeller, but it is no longer active.
When Digg launched v4 of their platform, their pageviews plummeted due to the design. However, if you compare the pageviews with the visits from the Compete chart, you will see the same general downward trend. Also, since the Digg decline, there is the opposite trend in pageviews for Reddit. Reddit has obviously been a big benefactor of the Digg decline. If you review the longer term trends on Compete, you will see that Reddit has been growing strongly in the past year. Mixx traffic has been in decline as well over the past year.
It seems that the real problem comes from the niche aspect of social news. Reddit has some very popular sub-reddits, and Digg has always been a popular technology site. However, these sites did not make the mainstream transition quickly enough to gain critical mass. Due to this, Facebook and Twitter have become the mainstream sites for social news. These sites may not have the categorical segmentation that the pure social news sites have, but many users follow people that have similar interests or similar social circles. So, they have already curated their news stream without the need of explicit categories.
While Reddit will continue to grow, at least for a while, I do not think that Digg or Mixx will survive in their current form. Both sites will need to reinvent themselves in order to regain popularity, and this is still very possible. Both sites could go deeper into a specific niche, similar to developer sites like DZone, or develop new functionality that differentiates them from other sites. I will admit that I am disappointed to see the decline of social news. In most cases, the engagement on these types of sites is heavier than sharing links on Twitter or Facebook. The traffic statistics seem to point to the fact that this style of site works very well within niche topics, but the mainstream user seems to prefer the Facebook style of conversation.
Sadly, one of the first groups of sites that were called social media is dying. There will be sites surviving, but these sites will likely not be of the same vision as the general social news sites.