June 23rd, 2006

Digg vs. The New York Times

by

In a review of Digg v3, TechCrunch declares that Digg is challenging The New York Times online in terms of page views. As evidence, Mike references an Alexaholic graph. Let’s look at the actual numbers.

According to TechCrunch, Digg has 800,000 daily unique visitors and 9 million page daily views. Here are the NYTimes.com traffic stats:

NYTimes Traffic Stats

If you extrapolate Digg’s daily page views to about 270 million monthly page views, it is definitely within striking distance of the Times. It’s also possible that Digg could rival The Times in terms of unique visitors in the not too distant future — it’s already half way there based on daily uniques.

To me, the interesting question is how Digg will rival The New York Times as a source of the most important news of the day. The Digg community has a reputation for some indiosyncratic choices, but certainly on technology, Digg has a breadth of “coverage” that already exceeds that of the Times.

The real test will be on World & Business News — I go to the NYT site every day because I want to know that the Iraqi government has declared a state of emergency, that the SEC is examing a large hedge fund, and that in Congo hunger and disease are eroding democracy.

Can Digg users be counted on to surface the most important global stories (important by some reasonable measure), or will they just obsess over weird stuff?

Digg could very well become an unrivaled daily news source. But as to the source of Digg’s World news, Digg users will still be sitting in comfy chairs while other people put on body armor to report from war zones. Digg (and every news filter for that matter) is a leech on every news gatherer, from blogger journalists to institutional journalists.

I’m not saying that the news filtering role in isn’t absolutely critical in getting your arms around the bubble of content online. But as to news gathering, especially of world news, I hope that there is still an economically viable way to fund the reporting from Congo if Digg further erodes the newspaper business model.

UPDATE

Rob Hyndman shines a spotlight on the key business question for Digg vs. the NYT — Which audience is more valuable to advertisers?

I’ve banged this drum before with Audiences Are NOT Created Equal.

It would be interesting to see some audience research from Digg to put some meat on those unique visitor bones.

  • Bob Estrada

    Interesting graph here: 60% of Digg's front page is the top 0.03% of users
    http://adverlab.blogspot.com/2...

    Not the original source, but that's where I saw it.

  • Dammit, hit "Submit" too soon.

    Just wanted to add something on the whole war zone / global reporting topic. Without any hard evidence to back me up, I think there's no reason why this function of global news needs to wither or die. There is still an audience for global reporting, and not every news outlet needs to shoulder the cost (does every paper need an Iraq bureau?). Further, there are already people in war zones with Internet access who can feed information to the outside world. I can definitely imagine this function being adopted by independent entities or other involveds, e.g. soldiers or GVO's extensive network of worldwide bloggers. Sites like Digg, Groklaw, or GVO have the same kind of advantage over the Times that open source has over traditional software development models: many eyes, high backgroun-checking capacity, and so on. What they don't have is the reliable ability to produce lng-term narrative journalism, such as The New Yorker's "Annals Of National Security" series.

  • Scott,

    I get what you're saying about the "most emailed" feature, but it doesn't quite fulfill the same need in my eyes. Just getting what's popular is one thing, while getting what's popular + a facet is another. It's not just Digg augmenting the Times, it's Digg augmenting the Times for the Digg user base. There are other sites that do roughly the same thing, but for varying audiencies: lefties, techies, hippies, trekkies, whatever.

  • This post recalls Dave Winer's long bet about the NYTimes.

    Scott, I think you're right, there isn't a need to take sides.

    Again, getting past the hype, it is important to just recognize there is a place for both approaches to news filtering. Indeed I think there is a real *need* for both, and that you can expect many other services like Netscape that mix them in novel and useful ways.

    But answer this - who is paying for the original pieces of investigative journalism that are linked to at Newsvine and Digg, or produced at the New York Times? And who will do so in the future? What are the economic models that are emerging, if any, to support it? Because it costs serious money.

    Scott, it sounds like you've come to the conclusion that it is still about advertising. And the service with the most attractive demographics to advertisers wins. That right?

  • Jon

    I'm not sure if this has been hit on yet, but I think Digg would help in the NY Times traffic. The articles themselves from the sites are being linked to from Digg and the people there click on them to read them. So I think, especially with Digg upgrading next week to version 3, it will provide the NY Times and other news sites with more readers.

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