February 19th, 2007

Digg Is The Apotheosis Of Niche Media

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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:

digg-top-ten.jpg

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.

  • >>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.

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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).

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