Today on TWiT Live, Digg founder and overall Angel investor Kevin Rose talked about a number of interesting things. One of those key things however was a sneak preview of long awaited and anticipated fourth version of Digg.com; which frankly is quite cool but the real question is how will the audience react? Only a few short years ago, this type of revision would have blown the doors off of the competition, but now it feels like more of a catch up release rather than a serious innovation cycle. Don’t get me wrong, the updated Digg is incredibly clean and just feels polished. The love for Apple, and admiration for their design ability by Kevin Rose is far from hidden in this release; but much like the release of iOS4 this release of Digg feels stunning yet underwhelming at the same time.
If you own an Android based phone, or have been using the Internet since before 2007, then there is a high likelihood that you have heard about Kevin Rose somewhere. Kevin received much of his press attention after bolstering Digg out of the gate with democratizing news for a tech and web based audience. The idea was simple, elegant for the time and solved an inevitable pain in the marketplace of reading the really good off-beat news that just wouldn’t be on the home page of CNN or similar news sources. Kevin quickly became entrenched with other successful ventures such as Revision3 (which just celebrated its 5th birthday a few days ago) through popular shows such as Diggnation and others. He also played his cards with Angel Investing to help get new and exciting start-ups into a (hopefully) stable development cycle and keep pushing innovation forward for the tech industry as a whole. Now, however, Kevin has picked up the reins once again as the CEO of Digg to really focus on the value proposition, positioning and ways to keep his once game changing service relevant for the world of Facebook and Twitter.
The Positioning Statement
How do people share things today? That is probably one of the first questions that Kevin asked himself as he took a look at why users chose to come to Digg and share stories, view new content and explore categories that interested them. He recognized why there is an addicting quality to the Facebook Newsfeed, realized the entrenchment that Facebook has and that there are areas of improvement as to how people consume content, not just statuses. Facebook uses an algorithim to decide how many people ultimately see your posted content based on projected engagement levels, as opposed to allowing all content to be pushed to people who essentially “opt-in” to see what you have to say.
Twitter on the other hand is able to avoid this lack of visibility seen inside of the Facebook ecosystem because users who you follow have all of their content pushed into your feed. However, the issue with this model, according to Rose is that “You may be interested in the articles of Tony Hawk.. but not that he just dropped his kids off at school”. The idea of authority figures within interest categories is being sought out, but Digg v4 hopes to solve the clutter of Twitter yet still have more promised visibility to your follows than Facebook.
Taming the Social Graph
In 2007 at the Facebook F8 conference, Mark Zuckerberg would not stop talking about the “Social Graph” which is now unfortunately one of the most overused buzz words today. However, the idea of a network effect through the people you know and who follow you may never have the same value proposition as what Kevin is proposing with the new Digg v4. The idea that quality content has the opportunity to surface within interest categories gives it a much needed enhancement for the ability to spread. This means you are going to see not only higher targeted content, but more of it; and both of these factors lead to a better internet experience.
So while Digg is going to have to work in order to please their current audience as well as be inviting to new “average” users (read: not hordes of geeky males), I think that the upcoming version of Digg fills a very real need within the marketplace. Additionally I think they are doing it in a way that truly comes with differentiators that matter to users when comparing the service to Twitter and Facebook (as well as Buzz or Wave if you actually use those services). The fact that services now have to clearly state their mission and work extremely efficiently to deliver value, is a strong indicator of the competitive times. Gone are the days of the “do everything” start-up approach that had worked so well for many, including Kevin Rose. Instead we are seeing a shift to niche level services and aggregation tools that allow each component of the web to be the best it can possibly be, and in the end, the consumer wins.