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DigitalEYE Interviews Zaibatsu (Reg Saddler) on Digg’s Redesign, User Revolt and The Future of Social Media

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Published: September 2, 2010

DigitalEYE had a chance to interview Zaibastu (Reg Saddler), a heavily influential social media expert who has over 100,000 followers on Twitter and has made a huge impact user news submitted sites such as Digg.  We discussed the new Digg redesign, user revolts and the future of Social Media concerning Digg and Twitter.

This is the transcript from an audio interview that took place August 31, 2010.

What is Digg to you?

Digg is always in my eyes. I’ve always enjoyed Digg as a news aggregator. At first that was my appeal. I came to it as a website where I could see content and breaking news stories; it was a little daily newspaper for me. The whole thing, after I got banned and even more changes, I didn’t want to contribute to the site and I was moving around millions of pages views per month. I thought “Why try to get back on and give them the good press?” Maybe it’s a little arrogant, but I really did feel that I was giving them some free love, so why try to get my account back on? I didn’t have the same kind of passion as before. That’s why I moved to Mixx and ultimately  Twitter looking for a site, not only for great news but somewhere that’s fun and has a different dynamic and different social media feel. Because social media is fun for me.

How do you view Twitter in regards to Digg?

The news breaks faster on Twitter than anywhere else. You’ll see correspondents from CNN to any Blogger for any company out there looking toward Twitter to find out what’s happening in the world. You’ll have someone posting a car bombing that recently happened and you’ll see it instantly on Twitter, then it’s broadcast and amplified and, then the big media sources are right on it saying “breaking from Twitter.” That’s why I say Twitter is actually breaking news faster.

Do you think Twitter could overtake Digg or will they remain coexisting?

Digg is your daily newspaper and its goal is to pick the best stories. Breaking news that is 4 hours old isn’t considered “breaking” anymore on Digg. Sites like Facebook and Twitter try to incorporate real time feedback; that has been going on for a while now. They’re two different animals and Digg is trying to incorporate the best features just like Facebook is from Twitter.

What do you think of the new Digg redesign and the user revolt? We’ve seen it happen with every major revision of the site, but what makes it different than previous Digg redesigns and user revolts?

I haven’t been on Digg. I wasn’t visiting it everyday looking for top news stories or even looking for a feel of the front page. What I would go there for is the upcoming stories; and the majority of that was coming up from friends. That was really enjoyable because I would see Andy Sorcini (MrBabyMan), Muhammad Saleem and other people and I knew. It’s in upcoming and it’s only been popular for 8 hours, it’s still breaking news and that’s where I find a lot of the Digg breaking news. Even if those stories don’t make it to the front page, I know they picked some good content. What happened with the new Digg redesign is they let in the big fire hose€”CNN and Mashable, specifically. I love Mashable and I love their content but they were able to push Digg to pull in every single story that they’re throwing out there. It’s like a zillion followers here and a zillion followers there; they’re pulling that content in and people are voting that up rather than going to Andy with his 20,000 followers because Mashable is a big brand name and they’re being pushed on to the front page. I think that was the complaint many of old time and new users (like top Diggers and non-top Diggers) had. Now all these big guys are able to force feed and push their content to the front page of Digg. At least before it was fair up to a point with the Digg algorithm picking and choosing the content that is coming from not only top submitters but then lowly, normal submitters.

New Digg

Old Digg

With the “big fire hoses” overtaking Digg, do you think it is redundant to see a story from Mashable and then go to the Mashable website?

It doesn’t really make it redundant, but here is where the problem lies and I think I have a better handle on it. If you talk to Muhammad Saleem and J.D. Rucker, they might have a better feel and better answer. If you’re a normal user on Digg and you see that Apple is having a special event September 1st, you’re more apt to click that than little Johnnie who submitted the story that came out an hour or even a day earlier. To address your question, again will it just make Digg a placeholder for these larger firms? In fact, that was the problem. Mashable got on the front page. 4 or 5 posts were Mashable stories just a few days early on in the redesign. Just recently, Digg users revolted and so they hopped on board Reddit’s news feed and started promoting Reddit’s stories so every single top Reddit story was now on the front page of Digg. I guess users were trying to show Digg and the populace of users out there just how silly the redesign is, where you can actually force content from a competitor onto the front page because of the way they’re aggregating news.

Since users are revolting and promoting top Reddit stories on to the Reddit front page, do you think Digg is going to notice this and make changes?

Yes. Kevin is on top of it. I’ll tell you why: he doesn’t know I’m not a regular on my old show called The Drill Down” where we could talk about Digg specifically and talk about Social Media in general. So when I told Kevin and other people “Hey I’m back on Digg” but I have a little fake account with my name, Kevin Rose welcomed me back. He also talked to J.D. Rucker and a few other people who mentioned him specifically about the new Digg redesign so he knows we’re influencers in Social Media. I think he was trying to nip some of the bad press. He’s being proactive. I don’t think he knows where all the fires are at right now, I don’t know if he’s not getting good feedback from his users or if he’s not listening to the end users. I think he is now€”initially he wasn’t. I think they’re going to bring back a lot of the popular features that Digg had tossed out in the redesign, I just don’t know if they know how to properly address the problems that have arisen and have forced them down Alexa wise by a third when it comes to traffic volume.

Where do you see Digg going in the future? Whether it’s a revamp of V4 or a whole new system for version 5, and in the next few years in terms of redesigns and content distribution.

My comment to Kevin Rose: You want to listen to your popular users, the people that make your site what it is. I don’t care if you think a small percent of the top Digg users control the front page. I specifically said this to Kevin: “You don’t want to be a Blockbuster, you want to be a Netflix.” That means listening to your people.

With that said, the only way I think Digg can stay relevant is to push in or embrace the people they pushed out before. Top Diggers: these are people who are passionate about content; they have a great feel for it. Just like Twitter isn’t kicking out Lady Gaga because people like her, I really think Digg should do the same thing and give Andy some love and everyone else out there who has been passionate about their content. Obviously the users have spoken and made him number one on Digg and everyone who’s 2 all the way down to 2,000 should be getting some love because these are unpaid content/social media experts trying to submit the best content that they can find to Digg.com. If it’s spammy, other users will call them out. If you work for Time magazine, or you’re doing a social media promotion and say you’re a top Digger promoting it, the users will call you out. The Digg community forces you rise beyond mediocrity. But now with the revamp, they came in and said “Hey Mashable, Time, Newsweek, all you guys: we’ve got some good news! We’re going to get your content on the front page every day. We’re going to make it front and center, we’re going use your influence.”

They’re going to have to go back to their old business model to get breaking news on to the front page. At best they will have a 3-4 hour lag time. They have to move that up to 15 minutes to half an hour, which they haven’t been able to do. They just don’t know how to do that with the new Digg and they haven’t been able to do so.

So that’s the new Digg, all that matters is timeliness, control people and timing. News is dead. If you go to CNN.com and you already heard about a story on Digg, people are going to stop going back.

  1. Gary Brewer says:

    Excellent article Tanner, I think a lot of his remarks support the direction online marketing is heading. Keep them coming!