February 19th, 2007

Digg Is The Apotheosis Of Niche Media


I was just on Digg, looking at the top ten list on the homepage, and it suddenly struck me that Digg is the apotheosis of niche media — of the niche, by the niche, and for the niche. Never has another media company so perfectly captured the interests and ethos of one defined group of people — in Digg’s case, under 25, male, liberal, interested in tech:


This list is just the right combination of tech news + tech how-to + weird and puerile news + a dash of liberal politics — no single editor could compile such a perfect list. Digg could not be further afield from a mainstream audience, but for the Digg niche, it is perfection.

Unfortunately for Digg, it has little or no value for anyone outside this niche, and chances are it will never be able to expand beyond this niche — it can’t without ruining its niche perfect pitch. But if Digg continues, as it has, to focus on this audience, it will continue to own them.

Comments (26 Responses so far)

  1. be a creep sending creepy messages be an anonymous creep viewing profiles be an automated spam bot or something that phishes accounts MySpace grew too big to keep any sort of community feel the way that Digg has

  2. From the Digital Axle blog: “Someone has finally said it: “Be the Content.” Hallelujah!” Check it out. (tags: advertising brands business change content creativity digitas entertainment ideas marketing media trends strategy) Publishing 2.0 | Digg Is The Apotheosis Of Niche Media

  3. Digg Is The Apotheosis Of Niche Media Posted 77 minutes ago I was just on Digg, looking at the top ten list on the homepage, and it suddenly struck me that … [Link]

  4. Digg Is The Apotheosis Of Niche Media 5 hours 49 min old Will Online Video Remain A Monopoly? 1 day 11 hours old Blog Herald Column: How SEO Confronts Its PR Challenge In The Blogosphere 2 days 9 hours old

  5. Digg Is The Apotheosis Of Niche Media » Publishing 2.0

  6. 메인페이지에 걸리면 웹호스팅 트래픽량이 얼마 안되는 경우는 백발백중 다운된다. (다운된 디그를 보게 해주기 위해서 디그 미러사이트들도 생겨나게 된다. ) Digg Is The Apotheosis Of Niche Media 그럼 이 엄청난 트래픽을 몰고오는 방문자 층은 과연 얼마나 다양할까? 양적으로 볼 때, 다양한 연령과 남성 여성이 대등한 비율로 사용할 것 같지만 실제로는 이 디그의 사용자들은 25세

  7. That’s exactly right Scott. And even though you and I see that, some fool will come along and buy it at a multiple that demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the growth potential of Digg.

  8. Scott, that is a very succinct definition of what Digg is. That describes the site better than its Wikipedia entry.

  9. Which of those headlines do you see as pointing to liberal politics?? The political ones all look to me like they’d fit in just fine over at Malkin’s HotAir.

  10. you are right. altough they don’t like to admit that it is niche media.


  11. It’s not a question of a media company capturing an audience – it’s the audience capturing itself. The ‘under 25, male, liberal, interested in tech’ group of people was (unsurprisingly) the first to adopt Digg. Try and find another new technology which isn’t touched by this group first – they are always the first to discover and adopt things on the web.

    There is room for a Digg style service to grow through the mainstream, but it’s just a small matter of hitting enough of the mainstream audience first so that the subject orientation doesn’t become niche. But then surely it means you’ll need to get a few early adoptors on your side if you want to filter to the mainstream? In which case, if Digg has captured all the early adoptors, maybe it still has a chance to make a crossover to the mainstream.

  12. [...] Karp points out that Digg owns its niche. Digg is the apotheosis of niche media — of the niche, by the niche, and for the niche. Never has [...]

  13. I’m inclined to say Digg can keep it, Scott. 5,000 diggs, for this!! This tells me more than I need to know about Digg’s demographic. I’ve always been sceptical about the opportunity to convert this audience into anything. Now that, plus I want to go have a shower.

  14. Marshall, conservative leaning stories are often Dugg so that they can be ripped to shreads — I was just inferring this when I looked at the stories on the list. I went to check out the comments of those stories to see if that was the case, but of course I couldn’t find them because Digg has the worst search engine on the web.

  15. What’s true for digg is true true for most Web 2.0 startups/sites, never really reaching beyong the early-adopter crowd. There really are only a few sites that make it past this stage and really successfully achieve mainstream adoption.

  16. [...] February 20th, 2007 Digg, apparently, is the apotheosis of niche media. [...]

  17. You’re substantially correct, but on the other hand, as Marshall Kirkpatrick pointed out above, the Digg population also includes a non-liberal “subculture” (for lack of a better term) that has enough members to get stories to the front page reasonably often. AFAIK, there’s no specific political party or organization, but if you read comments posted on some of the political stories, you can get a picture of an older demographic (both men and women, typically over 30 and married with children).

    BTW, people in that group do have some money to spend, and might be more likely to click on ads, were it not for the fact that Google Adsense does such a ham-handed job of identifying products and services that would be of interest to that audience.

  18. 1389, thanks for the observation — I think you’re right that politics aspect is more complex and probably includes at least one other distinct niche — it’s a good bet that any politics-focused niche overlapps closely, if not entirely with a political blog niche.

    And yes, it’s notable that AdSense has not been sufficient to bring Digg to profitability (at least as of a podcast that Kevin and Jay did with Mike Arrington last December).

  19. [...] Beautiful words Mr. Karp. [...]

  20. You couldn’t have said it better. But, I believe the same niche that Digg caters is going to be the very reason that Digg is unable to move mainstream. I’m sure that most of the mainstream articles will continue to be buried.

  21. [...] grew too big to keep any sort of community feel the way that Digg has. It tried appealing to too large of an audience, and now it has no value outside of tracking the [...]

  22. Interesting Scott. How do you compare their content to AOL/Netscape front page stories “submitted by users” that all could be front page in any mainstream rag such as, basically taking a quick scan, USA Today content? Is Netscape’s Digg clone more successful at getting mass, and if so why? I know they also have the “Anchors Recommend” which I guess is a play at staying mass, if boringly edited. The participation seems pretty light, I guess if it’s really mainstreamed content, why not just put the AP wire pages on the front page? If Digg is too niche to their early adopter audience to be palatable to more, well, mainstream? people, Netscape’s model doesn’t seem to be unearthing anything meaningfully different to bother with either. What about NewsVine?

    Niche groups want content from their tribe, but things they wouldn’t find on their own. I think the value of it may be the very niche-iness you hate.

  23. I can’t disagree with the Digg analysis, other than 25 might be a bit high in terms of the average age. But, don’t all forms of media come to reflect their audience; and the media their audience?

    Conservatives don’t go out of their way to read the NYT, except via right-wing blogs. Liberals are not going to buy the UK’s Daily Mail because of its politics. And, by the same token, the publishers of the Mail are not going to mess with their approach for fear of ticking off the audience it has built up just for the chance of picking up a few readers outside its core demographic.

    Neutral sites will never be able to build up an effective audience, unless they are perceived as biased to a particular ideology. And those that choose an ideology, or have it chosen for them, will be trapped by it. There is a way out for media owners and one that has worked well for the magazine publishers – have as many different properties as you can manage. Kill of those that don’t work and be prepared to have new properties take over from the old if an established title starts to falter because its audience has moved on (or died).

  24. >>Is Netscape’s Digg clone more successful at getting mass, and if so why?

    Netscape is a relative barren wasteland, because “normal” people with lives don’t interact with information the same way over-gadgeted, anti-social boys do on Digg. People who say Digg is the future of news don’t understand “real” people.

  25. [...] of our favorite bloggers is using big words to say that 25 year-old males who like tech stuff love Digg, which means if your magazine is going after this same audience, a digital edition that lets you [...]

  26. [...] weakness… the top Digg users, the human intelligence that creates the network effect, have narrow niche interests. For young, male, tech enthusiasts, Digg is a perfect news filter. For everyone else, it’s [...]

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