Submitted Articles Have a 1.12% Chance of Reaching Digg’s Homepage

Nice additional information to complement my “Digg is an Oligarchy” post from a month ago. Based on data culled from the first Digg Townhall, the folks at CenterNetworks made a quick calculation.

On an average weekday, you have a 150 in 10,000 chance that your submission will hit the frontpage. However we need to remove a piece of your chance because we know that some sites (in Tech for example: Gizmodo, Engadget, NYT, Techcrunch, Lifehacker, Ars Technica) will get more than one a day on average. (…) I peg these special sites at 25% of the daily average which leaves the rest of us with the balance 112 out of 10,000 chance.

CenterNetworks posits that if things don’t improve, the average site or user might not continue to see a benefit in submitting something to Digg.com. Given that there are now two other valuable social news sites out there (Reddit and Mixx), it might be more appropriate to spend energy there instead. They do have a solution for Digg though: “create separate verticals which would allow 150 stories in each category to hit the frontpage of that vertical each day. ” i.e. increase real estate by “verticalizing” the site.

What it means: I totally agrees with CenterNetworks’ proposed solution. I believe the Web is continuing to become more and more vertical and successful “destination” sites that target everything/everyone risk being desintermediated by vertical sites doing a better job than them. We’re seeing the same phenomenon in social networks right now.

Canpages Leverages Blog to Increase Brand Awareness

Yesterday morning, I had the opportunity to moderate a social media panel at the Infopresse conference on social networking. Sitting on my panel was Guillaume Bouchard from NVI, a Montreal-based SEO/SMO firm. He explained to the crowd of more than 280 people how, by using social media tools, he manages to generate brand awareness and increase the online street cred of Canpages, a Canadian directory company competing against Yellow Pages Group in Canada.

It starts with the creation of original and quirky content in the Canpages blog. His team then seeds that content in the various social news sites like Digg and Reddit. Working with a large network of friends and contacts, he’s able to catch the eye of online influencers who might (or might not) promote that piece of original content.

Canpages blog Weird Canadian Restaurants

His best success so far with Canpages has been this blog post about “Weird Canadian Restaurants”. It was submitted to Digg and generated 676 diggs and 101 comments. It was promoted to the first page of the site and generated good traffic (he did not disclose how much) for the Canpages blog. It was also favorited by people in StumbleUpon, another social tool that has the reputation of driving a lot of traffic. The post was well enough crafted to be picked up by Dan Mitchell from the New York Times, which generated some more traffic to the Canpages blog.

Canpages Digg Weird Canadian Restaurants

What it means: a great use (and a great understanding) of social media tools and sites to build a new directory brand and make it more exciting for “cool kids”. This is also a great strategy to build new incoming links to your domain, thereby increasing your page rank in Google. You’ve got to wonder though if there are long-lasting positive effects from both a brand equity and online directory site usage but I don’t think it hurts given the runner-up position they occupy in the market.

Digg is an Oligarchy (or Why Digg Must Constantly Update Its Algorithm)

Digg.com, the social news site, did a major algorithm update last week to tweak the way submitted content get to the front page of the site. As Kevin Rose explained, “As we’ve talked about in the past, Digg’s promotional algorithm ensures that the most popular content dugg by a diverse, unique group of diggers reaches the home page. Our goal is to give each person a fair chance of getting their submission promoted to the home page.”

digg

(Flickr picture by donlbe)

The reaction from Digg power users was scorching. Wired explains: “For those who missed it, several of the top diggers — including Andrew “MrBabyMan” Sorcini, Muhammad “msaleem” Saleem and Reg “Zaibatsu” Saddler, held an emergency chat/podcast to discuss their response to a recent change in the Digg algorithm which made it more difficult for veteran Diggers to get their submissions on the front page. After nearly a couple hours of debate, it was decided that they would boycott the site. They backed down from the plan, though, when Digg founder Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson showed up and talked them down from it.”

Now, why is Digg constantly updating their algorithm and making their power users angry? Let me explain…

Since their launch, Digg’s mission has been about democratizing the news by using the wisdom of the crowds. Jay Adelson repeated it a year ago in the company blog “Our goal is always to maintain a purely democratic system for the submission and sharing of information – and we want Digg to continue to be a great resource for finding the best content.” In addition, there have been multiple rumors around traditional news media firms wanting to buy the site. If you’re in traditional media, what’s sexy about Digg is that promise of real news democracy. It’s a very noble mission but, unfortunately for Digg, the site is currently not a democracy. It’s an oligarchy, where home page results are controlled by a few hundred individuals. If you’re not part of the “Digg club”, getting an article to the front page is a very difficult task. And no traditional media firm will want to buy a site that’s controlled by a small group of people, especially not for $300M (one of the rumored prices). So, for Digg.com, it’s “Democracy or Bust”.

Update: someone suggested we submit the post to Digg to prove (or not) the point. Here it is, if you want to “digg” it.

Update2: “Slashdot Founder Questions Crowd’s Wisdom” in the New York Times.

Google Opening Its Social Graph?

TechCrunch reports on a secret meeting that happened at Google in the last few days. It looks like Google is about to “out open” Facebook by allowing developers to leverage Google’s social graph information.

The short version: Google will announce a new set of APIs on November 5 that will allow developers to leverage Google’s social graph data. They’ll start with Orkut and iGoogle (Google’s personalized home page), and expand from there to include Gmail, Google Talk and other Google services over time.

On November 5 we’ll likely see third party iGoogle gadgets that leverage Orkut’s social graph information – the most basic implementation of what Google is planning. From there we may see a lot more – such as the ability to pull Orkut data outside of Google and into third party applications via the APIs. And Google is also considering allowing third parties to join the party at the other end of the platform – meaning other social networks (think Bebo, Friendster, Twitter, Digg and thousands of others) to give access to their user data to developers through those same APIs.

And that is a potentially killer strategy. Facebook has a platform to allow third parties to build applications on Facebook itself. But what Google may be planning is significantly more open – allowing third parties to both push and pull data, into and out of Google and non-Google applications.

That big rumor comes on the heels of another big announcement from Six Apart about open sourcing the Web’s social graph (a la OpenID). If you thought the Web was fragmented, wait until you can start building application on top of Google, Yahoo or MSN’s social graphs…

Chronology of a Successful Facebook Group: The “Save Business 2.0″ Example

Efforts to save Business 2.0 magazine via a Facebook group are going very well. We currently have 500 members (including a large number of tech influencers) after only two days and we’re getting traction in multiple media (ValleyWag, Advertising Age, Fast Company and a variety of blogs).

As the “Official ‘Save Business 2.0’ blogger”, here’s my theory of what I think happened to get to this result as quickly.

1) I was the original sneezer after seeing the New York Times article talking about the potential shutdown of the magazine. I wrote a Facebook status update that said “Sebastien is sad to think Business 2.0 magazine might fold in September”. As I’m using Facebook for networking and I’ve been adding many friends since Robert Scoble talked about me last Saturday, I reach out to 250+ “friends” with my update.

2) One of my friends, Colin Carmichael, picks up the news via my status update, decides to create the group and invites me.

Gmail

3) I blog about the group in the Praized blog.

Praized blog - Business 2.0

4) My blog post gets picked up by Techmeme and is attached to the original New York Times article. It’s the first broadcast about the creation of the Facebook group.

Techmeme

5) Someone from Business 2.0 (or someone close to the team) finds my blog post via Techmeme and sees that Colin has created a group.

6) A good portion of the Business 2.0 staff, freelancers and former employees joins the group. All these people are important influencers. As quoted by Advertising Age, “Editor in Chief Josh Quittner said he signed up for the group as a purely reflexive emotional gesture. “It choked me up — an old cynic like me,” he said.”

7) Close friends and business acquaintances (other tech journalists & bloggers) are invited to joined the group via the Facebook “Join this group” function.

Facebook Join this group

8) As the Silicon Valley tech crowd is a tightly-knit group, they quickly reach out to their peers who then join the group.

9) In the meantime, I try to fan the flames using Digg and Linkedin. Digg does not work but Linkedin contributes to the conversation.

Digg Facebook Business 2.0

linkedin.jpg
12) In the meantime, Colin talks with many media about the group and its purpose.

10) Valleywag picks up the news, sends it to another level.

11) Group members continue to invite other influencers, Advertising Age picks up the news, reaching a more mainstream marketing population.

12) Snowball effect is in action as we get more and more media/blog coverage, more people joining and more people inviting other people. 48 people added themselves to the group while I was writing this post.

13) What’s next? Business 2.0 is saved? Let’s continue the movement and save the magazine!

Now, this is just my theory. I think Colin and I played an important role by starting all of this but I think Techmeme played a critical relay role. And I think the use of the viral functionalities of Facebook by the influencers who joined the group in the early hours played a critical role as well. In addition, what I find fascinating is that we’ve had many people tell us that a) they created their Facebook account to be able to join the group and b) they ended up subscribing to the magazine after seeing the news and the efforts to save it. If that’s not the power of social media…

Can Social Media Save Business 2.0 Magazine?

What started yesterday as one of my Facebook status updates is slowly becoming a grass-root effort to save Business 2.0 magazine. The Facebook group created yesterday morning for that occasion now has 139 members (and growing every minute). The list of people supporting the magazine is starting to read like a who’s who of tech entrepreneurs, bloggers and journalists and includes amongst others Reid Hoffman, Michael Arrington, Om Malik, Craig Newmark, and Josh Quittner.

In addition to the Facebook group, I’ve posted the news on Digg (very limited results) and I’ve also asked a question on LinkedIn (some interesting comments there). We’re also now crossing over into blogging media with a Valleywag article covering our efforts to save the magazine. Hopefully, we can get more blogging media coverage today and maybe (cross your fingers) get offline media coverage as well!

With that many “sneezers” on board, I have very high hopes we can tell Time Inc. that the magazine is a must-read amongst the digerati and save it.

BTW, if you like Business 2.0 magazine, make sure you add your name to the Facebook group! If you want to add me to your Facebook network, don’t hesitate to invite me also.

End of day update: the group is up to 329 members and Advertising Age has covered the news! Keep going!

What is Social Media?

In my daily work, I often use the expression “social media”. I’ve been asked to define it before but I always end up talking about user-generated content and reciprocal, two-way conversation between the user and the media. Wikipedia has a good definition but Joe Marchese from the Mediapost’s Online Spin adds more meat:

Social media describes the online technologies and practices that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences, perspectives and media itself. Social media can take many different forms, including text, images, audio, and video. These sites typically use technologies such as blogs, message boards, podcasts, wikis, and vlogs to allow users to interact. A few prominent examples of social media applications are Wikipedia (reference), MySpace (social networking), Gather.com (social networking),YouTube (video sharing), Second Life (virtual reality), Digg (news sharing), Flickr (photo sharing) and Miniclip (game sharing).” (source: Wikipedia)

Marchese begins: “first I think one of the biggest myths regarding social media is that it equals user-generated content. (…) Second, there is nothing about social media that demands user creation. The “media” part of social media can be anything from professional content to home videos. Just because “America’s Funniest Home Videos” consisted of user-generated content certainly didn’t make it social media. Conversely, just because “Heroes” is professionally produced doesn’t mean that it can’t be social media.”

He continues: “the real difference between broadcast media and social media is not the media itself, but the system of discovery, distribution, consumption and conversation surrounding the media. (…) What many of us are defining as social media today are actually just technologies specifically architected to facilitate people’s natural tendencies to seek out, share and discuss media content. Think about it. How is MySpace social medium? I would certainly say that MySpace is the largest and most influential social media platform of our time, but it doesn’t create media (at least not for most of it). The media one finds on MySpace is a mix of professional, semi-professional and (I hate using the term) “user- generated” content, and that media is made social by the context of its distribution and its ability to create dialogue between people. ANY TYPE OF MEDIA CAN BE SOCIAL MEDIA — and eventually all media will be social media in the most literal definition. This will have serious implications for media companies and advertisers alike, so it is important that we are not dismissing social media as the user-generated portion of the Internet.”

What it means: so my quasi, minimalistic definition wasn’t too far off. I agree that social media is all about the conversation but I think that, as part of that conversation, there will be some “user-generated content” happening. I agree that all media can be social media. I would even say that all media will have to become social media. Consumers are getting used to contributing to the conversation and that’s not going away. BTW, I like his thoughts regarding America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Social Media Users Revolt against Digg and DRM

Yesterday was a fascinating day at Digg, the very popular social news voting site. After receiving a cease & desist letter asking the Digg management team to remove posts containing the key to cracking the HD-DVD encryption code, they removed the posts and deleted the accounts of the people who posted them.

Following that decision, their users revolted and started submitting the encryption code in all sorts of creative fashion. During part of the day, all the top news on Digg were about that story. Digg finally decided they would not fight the community and “…after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be. If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.”

What it means: don’t underestimate the power of your users within a social media environment. Users become a much more important stakeholder in your day-to-day operations. Mashable has an interesting take on the future of this situation where Digg users could actually contribute money to a defense fund if they get sued. Mashable adds “Digg users could also significantly affect the coverage of the story on the Internet and in the press, even swaying popular opinion. An opportunity in a crisis?” Fascinating!

Social News: USA Today Revamps Website, MySpace News is Coming

From Terry Heaton’s PoMo Blog:

MySpace is getting into the news business with launch due in early 2nd quarter, according to inside sources and the company’s own sales materials.

  • MySpace News takes News to a whole new level by dynamically aggregating real-time news and blogs from top sites around the Web
  • Creates focused, topical news pages that users can interact and engage with throughout their day
  • MySpace is making the news social, allowing users to:
    Rate and comment on every news item that comes through the system
    Submit stories they think are cool and even author pieces from their MySpace blog
  • MySpace users previously had to leave the site to find comprehensive news, gossip, sporting news, etc. With MySpace News, we bring the news to them!

Now it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is not good news for those of us in the news business, unless we view it as another way to get our content onto yet another platform. MySpace is currently cutting deals with content providers to do just that, and I think it’s likely the process will show us what types of “news” will be of interest to young people, circa 2007. And that is something we might be able to use downstream. That said, this is another example of an internet pureplay company taking on the role of media company and using their core audience as the distribution vehicle.

Update: Wired News has screenshots and a powerpoint presentation.

What it means: MySpace is launching the equivalent of Google News (news & blog aggregator) with a social element a la Digg.com (news rating & reviews). Which means they are completely dependent on content producers, which means, as Terry Heaton says, it’s another distribution venue for news providers. The big challenge will be: can this new news outlet drive traffic back to content producers? By the way, there’s nothing to prevent traditional news sources to execute the same strategy especially if they have a solid brand. The best example is the launch of the new USAToday.com this week. In this letter to their readers (found on GigaOm), the editors discuss their new features. They include scanning other news sources directly on USATODAY.com, seeing how readers are reacting to stories. recommending stories and comments to other readers, writing reviews, etc. This is a very positive move by USA Today!

Beyond Google: Social Media Engines First, Other Search Engines Second

Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land dropped a bomb on the SEO world last Wednesday by firmly putting a new stake in the ground:

“…over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself more and more thinking that if you want to go beyond Google as a search marketer, the other search engines that matter first are the “social media search engines.” After them come the other major general purpose search engines like Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask.”

“Search marketers should tap into search engines — and that includes the social media search engines. Neil Patel’s Forget ABCs – The Social Media Alphabet Is DNRS (…) is an excellent introduction to some of these players, for those not up on social media search engines and social media optimization. (…) They are traffic powerhouses you can’t ignore.”

What it means: Wow! Social Media (Digg, Techmeme, Del.icio.us, possibly MySpace, etc.) are now considered to be the second biggest source of traffic after Google for certain types of sites (news, blogs, etc.). Which means Social Media Optimization (discussed in the Praized blog in November) should now be a key element of your traffic strategy. Are you properly leveraging these sites?