Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Do you look like your aggregator?

You know how they say pets tend to look like their owners. Well, after playing around with content aggregators over the last few days, it’s become strikingly obvious to me that the content aggregators share the same types of personalities as their users.

The explosion of traffic this site has seen over the last three of four days that has seen us maintain our lofty WordPress ranking has been entirely down to referrals from aggregators. So I’ve had the opportunity to watch the kinds of traffic that these aggregators send through as well as watching the way certain stories climb or fall.

It’s been fascinating.

Let’s start with memeorandum. How does memeorandum work. It’s based on links from authorative sources. So if you’re not in the club, you don’t get a guernsey no matter how intelligent or smart your post is. There’s no ability to submit an article. You need to depend on being noticed and linked to by someone in the club. Now, let’s look at the type of bloggers who dominate memorandum. It’s the tech elite. Your Scoble’s, Arrington’s, Malik’s, etc. So you’ve got elite bloggers, whose sense of eliteness is being reaffirmed by an elitest aggregator.

It’s not surprising then that memeorandum sends through the least traffic of the three aggregators I’ve mentioned. But you get really good traffic. Bloggers who are going to take your post and critique, expand, pontificate. The only unfortunate aspect to memeorandum is that unless you’re one of the posts get broken out as a lead story the traffic it sends through is almost non-existent. So the conversation aspect of memeorandum isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Some one would say exactly the same about his corner of the blogosphere.

Now let’s look at Digg. Digg is all about power to the people. To get a story up the ladder at Digg, the comrades need to vote it up. There’s no elite, here. Every one has the ability to Digg. No Digg is worth more than any other Digg. And who is your average Digger. Your open-source loving, technology-is-democratizing the world, techie geek. Any body, any story can make it to the top of Digg if the people say so.

But Digg’s ranking system encourages herd mentality. The more popular it becomes, the higher up the list it gets, the more Diggs it gets, the higher up the list it goes and so on. Digg traffic is all or nothing. If you dont’ get a start, Digg sends through just a trickle of traffic. Make it onto the front page, though, and Digg’s easily the more influential aggregator around as you can see by watching the WordPress rankings of those WordPress.com blogs that make it to the front.

Next up, we’ve got Reddit. Reddit’s slightly more sophisticated than Digg, in terms of the way it ranks traffic. Not only can you promote something up the batting order you can also critique it. So where a sensationalist post has the potential to rocket up the Digg charts because of the number of Digg’s, on Reddit, it’s just as likely to struggle because people are going to vote it down. Similiarly, the type of stories that do well on Reddit, are a little more high-brow than what you get at Digg. More world news and politics, tech blog posts that make it need to be very well argued.

Reddit will get you a pretty reasonable traffic flow, even if you don’t get onto the front page. There appears to be far more people lurking around the back pages looking for good stuff and Reddit readers are more inclined to check you out than Digg readers.

So while all primarily have a tech-oriented audience, there are three very distinct groups served by each. In fact, you can say these groups are analagous to our society. memeorandum is for the crusty, upper class. Digg is for the greater populus and Reddit is for the middle class.

What all this tells me is that there probably won’t be one aggregator that rules this space. Because even though you can create different communities around a particular voting style, the more important nature of an aggregator is that the ranking methodology has to fit with the personality of the community.

So in fact, I wonder if Digg, memeorandum, Reddit will scale beyong the communities they own now. Gabe Rivera has already said memeorandum has limitations because his community interacts very differently to how the rest of the blogosphere works. How well with the Digg, Reddit systems work outside of the tech arena. Techies like to be involved with technology, so they like an interactive ranking system. Will a teenage girl, a mother-of-three, a grandfather engage with a site the same way?

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Filed under: Content Aggregation, Digg.com, memeorandum, reddit

10 Responses

  1. Peggy says:

    “There appears to be far more people lurking around the back pages looking for good stuff and Reddit readers are more inclined to check you out than Digg readers.”
    Yes, an absolute Reddit fan here. I have found some really interesting posts on the back pages of this site. Nice, clean, understated UI. Quick easy reference.

    “In fact, you can say these groups are analagous to our society. memeorandum is for the crusty, upper class. Digg is for the greater populus and Reddit is for the middle class.” Spot on!
    Yes I am a ‘middle class’ user, and my take is:
    1. Reddit = local library feel, quietly providing good, solid reference information.
    2. Digg = reminds me of some of the old news groups – heading toward high % of the populus = trolls
    3. Memeorandum = circle jerk

  2. jonny says:

    You know, I’m thinking rather the opposite. You may have a point about the different methodologies affecting the target population, but I get the feeling that digg is different only insofar as it is extremely popular outside of established circles. I discovered Reddit maybe two weeks ago, and memeorandum last week (also, I’m pretty interested in seeing where newsvine goes, because it has too few users right now to be worth anything, but it may become really great in the future). Any time a vast number people get involved with anything, most of those people are going to be trolling (or the RL equivalent). Memeorandum makes it so that that vast number of people can’t get involved, which limits the amount of trolling, but also makes it so that less content is available (and as a reader of all three, it seems pretty obvious that I am starving for content). Reddit and digg, I think, are on similar levels; it’s only that Reddit hasn’t got so much of a readership that keeps it from having the same thing happen to it as digg.

  3. kelvin says:

    There is another news aggregrator, Megite, at http://www.megite.com

  4. [...] I loved how the Squash blog by Phil Sim titled this: Do You Look Like Your Aggregator. Brilliant. You know how they say pets tend to look like their owners. Well, after playing around with content aggregators over the last few days, it’s become strikingly obvious to me that the content aggregators share the same types of personalities as their users. [...]

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