Digg Diverting Traffic Away From Web Publishers

shovelI’m sure many readers are already familiar with Digg, the socially promoted news website. I’m also sure that regular users of Twitter make up a significant number of those people as well. This post is for everyone, but most especially those in the crossover category.

You see, when you send a link over twitter you want it as short as possible. With only 140 characters to work with space is at an obvious premium. There are a variety of services, including Digg that provide URL shorteners. Bit.ly, Ow.ly, and TinyURL being a few others (I use ow.ly because it is integrated with HootSuite which is my preferred twitter management tool).

Not all link shorteners are alike, and Digg’s has just crossed a line as far as I am concerned. You see they have enacted what I see from a professional standpoint as a rather shady new wrinkle in the way their service works. You see if you are a non Digg user or a logged out Digg user following their short URLs drop you on a page within the Digg website rather than going to the link in question.

I’m sure this is capturing a lot of extra hits for Digg, but in a fashion that I find ethically questionable. Be aware that if you use Digg’s short URL’s you will be losing a large percentage of the incoming traffic those links should produce.

Mashable’s Pete Cashmore has a nice column about this which points out the fact that you may not always know when your favorite application is using Digg:

The move has many implications which are sure to irk Digg’s most valuable source of traffic and content: the publishers. Not only is Digg diverting traffic away from publisher sites, but many Twitter applications added Digg URL support on the assumption that Digg URLs would always work the same way as Bit.ly, TinyURL and the rest.

For instance, Tweetmeme, the service we use at Mashable to allow people to retweet posts, rotates through multiple URL shorteners including Digg. In some cases, people trying to share our stories will unknowingly be directing their followers to Digg instead of this site.

Updates to Cashmore’s original column include a twittered response from Kevin Rose (founder of Digg) where he says he was not aware of this due to being on vacation and will look into it. That response was made yesterday and as far as I know there has been no further news since.

I will say that I will not be using Digg or its services in the near future while I wait to see what happens. I certainly hope that Rose changes this practice, but only time will tell.

 is the owner of SocialGumbo, LLC


5 Comments

  1. I don’t buy that Kevin “was not aware this changed”. Kevin was interviewed by Leo on Twit (I believe it was before Kevin’s twitter update) and basically said they did it on purpose. (see http://socialnewswatch.com/digg-shortener-on-twitter/ for the Twit transcript). Kevin’s quote (again, I believe it was before his twitter update about not being aware of the changes): “Rather than providing a short URL service that just forwards and does redirection we would just do a URL service just for Digg articles.”

    Something doesn’t jive…

    Either way – if people don’t like sending viewers to the Digg page, I guess they can use another shortening service.

    Thanks for the article!

  2. I appreciate the link (and advise other readers to check it out as well)! If this is truly becoming their new standard and is not changed I will be forced to advise my clients against Digg across the board.

    It really is a cheap way of stealing some Google juice.

    Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation!

  3. I don’t completely understand Jay Adelson’s’ post on the Digg Blog (http://blog.digg.com/?p=907), but it appears that they are undoing the changes from last week:

    “In response to feedback, all short URLs that were generated *before* today will now behave as they did prior to last week’s change by taking the user directly to the source content.”

    This whole thing gives the impression that no one is in charge or knows what is going on over at Digg. I’ve never used Digg’s shortening service so this doesn’t really affect me, but it is still interesting to watch!

  4. I understand better now. The WebWare blog (http://news.cnet.com/8301-27076_3-10292283-248.html) does a good job of explaining Jay’s blog post. Apparently any historical “shortened” urls will behave as they did prior to last week, but the changes of directing all traffic to the Digg page is permanent going forward.

  5. Sounds like Digg will be dropping off of my list of services used.

    Honestly, while a very interesting site, Digg is nearly useless for generating traffic. Sure, if you make it to the front page you’ll probably have your server crashed by the “Digg Effect,” but the problem is that almost none of that traffic gets retained. 500,000 hits to a single post is pretty useless if the readers ever come back. All it does is increase the amount you have to send on bandwidth.

    StumbleUpon seems to yield vastly better results in my humble opinion.

    Thanks for all the links, I’ll probably quote you in my follow up post…

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