In A Step Back Towards V3, Digg Ending RSS Submissions For Publishers

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In a step back towards the old Digg, Digg Product manager Mike Cieri just sent out an email to partner publishers stating the intent to remove the RSS submitted stories feature. For those of you that remember, the RSS submission feature was how stories from the Reddit publisher account on Digg were sent to the Digg front page in an act of rebellion against the V4 redesign of the site last August.

The painful V4 redesign led to a user revolt and a drastic drop in traffic, with a corresponding increase in traffic over at competitor Reddit.

Cieri’s email says the RSS-submitted content is not performing well, which we can attest to judging by the single digit Diggs on stories and decline of Digg referral traffic on our site, and that the tool is being abused by spammers. The company will be reverting to manual submissions next week.

This is not the first time Digg has brought back V3 features as an attempt to bring back users after the initial V4 vision fell through. It brought back the controversial “Bury” button back in October as well as user profiles on submission pages and popular story statistics just last week.

The RSS submission tool was originally conceived to cater to publishers and expand possibilities for revenue. As this did not work out as planned Digg had no choice but to revert to the way things were says longtime user John Boitnott, “Digg bit off more than they could chew, and changed the way stories were promoted as well as the general conception of the site at the same time, so the massive number of people left.”

The consensus among former Digg users is that removing RSS submissions is a good move, and that V4 essentially turned the site into a “glorified RSS reader.” As the objective of a content aggregator is to filter the news and separate the signal from the noise, the “treating all publisher feeds as equal” model simply did not work.

Full email below:

Publisher Update From Digg

Publishers,

We hope this message finds you well. After a bumpy second half of 2010 at Digg, we are starting to see positive signs of improvement and are optimistic about the direction Digg is headed. In January 2011, we saw double digit growth of diggs and comments, as well as an increase in unique visitors and exit clicks out to publisher sites. We’ve taken a number of concrete steps to stay better connected with the Digg community, and we are taking action to improve Digg based on our community’s feedback. One important point of feedback we’ve heard is that RSS submitted stories are hurting Digg in a number of ways, and in the next week we are going to discontinue the ability to submit content via RSS. We’d like to share the reasoning behind the decision, and let you know what you can do to improve your performance on Digg.

Put very simply, most RSS submitted content is not performing well on Digg. For many of our users, RSS submissions take the fun out of finding and submitting great content. When users try to submit a story to Digg and find that the story has already been auto-submitted via RSS, they lose interest in helping spread the story on Digg by commenting and sharing with friends. Removing a user’s desire to champion a story results in less diggs, comments, exit clicks, and ultimately a much smaller chance of making the Top News section. Our analytics reflect this point – only 4.5% of all Top News content comes from RSS submitted content (95.5% is manually submitted).

At its core, Digg is a community of passionate users who take pride in the content they submit and engage with one another in discussion and promotion of viral content. There is a perception that some publishers don’t participate in the community, use RSS submit as an “auto-pilot” tool to submit content without discretion, and do little to promote submitted content or start discussions. This is one reason why many popular publishers, despite having tens of thousands of followers, are not seeing strong referral numbers for their submissions. Some publishers have cultivated a tight following on Digg by digging and commenting on content other than their own, adding Digg buttons prominently to articles on their site and limiting the content they submit to just their best content. These publishers are seeing much more value from Digg.

Finally, the RSS submission tool has been heavily abused by spammers and has been a constant drain on our technical resources to identify and fight off spam content. The simple act of forcing a manual submission helps to combat spam and ensures that quality content appears on Digg.

So in the next week, the feature will be disabled. We wanted to give advance notice of this change and encourage you to start submitting your best content manually to Digg. You can also enable your audience to help submit and spread your content on Digg by placing Digg buttons on each story item on your site. We are confident that removing RSS submissions will help increase exit clicks to your sites, and ultimately help you receive more value from Digg.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or thoughts.

Thanks,
Mike


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