A short article in an early 2007 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review turned up on my desk the other day; one of the still-not-too-large pile of articles that you’re treated with when you search for “Digg” as a keyword in large electronic databases. It raises a few points about how a professional journalists could see Digg, and content sharing/promoting in general.
The most important concern is how the supposedly democratic workings of Digg are misleading. Some users have more power on the site than others, and some users, as well as “entire communities” treat Digg as a game, where the goal is to make whatever chosen story popular by whatever means, irrespective of the story’s inherent qualities.
Since 2007, Digg has undergone great changes. For one thing, the ranking and list of “best submitters” has been eliminated. This was done in order to fight “digging for attention,” i.e. the practice of submitting items of dubious quality solely for recognition by other Digg users. And the latest overhaul of the site put an even stronger focus on personalization and advertising. On the Digg of today, sponsored articles appear in everyone’s feed; and instead of single stories, whole blog- and news outlet-feeds can now also be submitted – which is quite contrary to the original, grassroots-filtering, democratic editorial principles.
These changes were seen as attempts by the site to counter declining trends of popularity. Sounds reasonable enough – and shows an example of how business interests are embedded in workings of the mass media – and, in certain cases, act to their detriment.
Anyhow – this is just a reminder how terribly important it is for my research to paint an accurate picture of the practical organization, structure and modus operandi of the sites analyzed. (Luke Goode referred to these as the “software code” of this new mode of news production.) Perhaps, Reddit is now closer to that ideal that I had in mind about social news sites earlier.
Cohn, David (2007): “Digg This”, in: Columbia Journalism Review, January/February 2007.