7 Things Google should (and probably would) do if it buys Digg

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Not even a few months ago, Digg was on the verge of being bought out by Google or Microsoft. While those rumors have largely disappeared, the possibility (and even likelihood) of one of the two giants snatching up Digg is still prominent.


I had a debate with a friend of mine over the usefulness and future of Digg. It got me thinking about which direction Digg is headed. So I am performing a thought experiment to explore the possibilities (I love these).

What should each of these companies do with Digg if it bought the social media and user-chosen content powerhouse? Where would the integration points be and what would be the long-term strategy and direction for Digg under new overlords? And how would an acquisition affect the Internet landscape?

I’m going to start with Google (Microsoft will be next week). After that, there will be one more article about the impact of Digg on the internet.

So without further ado, here’s 7 things Google should do if it buys Digg:



1) Integrate Digg with Google News and the news algorithm

Google is a company of synergies. Utilizing its unparalleled efficiency in search in all of its products gives it a distinct advantage. Integrating your email with Google calendar keeps you on the Google servers (and makes life quite easy, too!). You get the idea.

The same would hold true for Digg if they buy it. There are many ways to incorporate Digg as the preferred social content destination of the Google empire. I’ll start off with Google News.

Google News aggregates the major news into one simple and efficient interface. But its relevancy and popularity rankings for stories of similar topics can always be improved and Digg would help in that endeavor.

Yes, the male-skewed demographic of Digg may not be the best source of demographic information for Google News, but it is a good indicator of the popularity of major news stories, of the most popular article within a certain topic, and can help find more obscure stories that should be on more peoples’ radars. Also, over time, the Digg demographic would become more representative of the general internet population. See #5 below.

Google could do a few tweaks to the Google News algorithm, nothing big, to improve the rankings of news articles within categories and to bring out some of the more obscure but very interesting news of the day. Also, Digg icons next to Google news stories. News stories are what reach the Digg front page the most often, so this integration feels natural.



2) Place Digg icons in search results (but do it methodically)

Let’s get a little more controversial. Digg is the largest player in the social media space, but Digg is still small compared to the vastness of the Internet. Google isn’t though, and it can leverage that size and reach to really combine the social with the computational. Social search engines like Mahalo and Wikia Search are already beginning to fill their niches. Although it’s unlikely, it’s possible that one of these engines innovates enough to knock Google on its ass, or at least give it major headaches. Hell, just look at Microsoft’s Windows Vista and Internet Explorer.

The other thing is that people power can actually improve search results, weed through irrelevant data, and bring up the best information. To that end, if Google bought Digg, it must be committed to integrating social data into its overall data empire, and it starts with Google Search. The first step in this process would be integrating Digg into Google Search results.

Next to the “Cached – Similar pages – Note this” and other link items that appear with all Google search results, there would be a link with either “# Digg(s)” or “Digg this.” Perhaps limit it to certain topics, to sites with a previously popular story on Digg, or don’t have the Digg link appear until there’s a predetermined # of Diggs (by algorithm), but integrate Digg if you buy it, Google. Hell, Google has something similar to the Digg/Bury system in its Google Experimental Search program.

Yes, this suggestion is a bit more radical, but there’s no other way if Google buys Digg. It must expand the site, its demographic, and its influence on the web. The Digg community would be a lot larger if Google took it over.



3) Heavily tweak the Digg algorithm based on Google’s massive stores of data


Sorry kids, the Digg algorithm isn’t perfect. It can be gamed, it can be manipulated, and poorly researched or really strange items sometimes crawl their way to the front page. But if Google took Digg over, it wouldn’t have to be this way. Certain things would (and should) happen:

  • Google would bring in more users, and thus it would take more votes for an item to become popular. This makes it harder to game the system by begging for Diggs.
  • Google’s engineers would use their data to spot low-quality. It will know that the website is poorly made, that the content is poorly written, and that the credibility is suspect. It doesn’t mean the item wouldn’t front page; it just means it would take more Diggs.
  • A plethora of changes to the Digg algorithm based on Google’s research and wealth of information. I can’t even begin to imagine the many tweaks Google engineers would apply to Digg. Knowing what’s popular in searches can really bolster Digg’s usefulness to those beyond the current Digg demographic.



4) Digg integration with Blogger, Google Reader, Orkut, YouTube, and Google’s many other services

GoogleI talked about news, I talked about search, now what about all of the other many wonderful nifty services Google owns? Oh, they’d get the Digg treatment. YouTube and Blogger are prime candidates. YouTube is one of the most popular websites on Digg, and Blogger websites would probably get a boost to the detriment of rival WordPress.

Orkut, Google’s social network, would probably include streaming your activity on Digg to your Orkut account (yes, people actually use Orkut); Google Reader would probably display Digg stats for the blogs you read. We could go on and on with all of Google’s other services, but really, there’s more that would be done since Google would probably add many more features to Digg after the acquisition.


5) Expand Digg’s demographic and reach

Outside the most recent Digg meetup in NYC.  Many guys, maybe one girl.  Credit to Valleywag for the imageNow that Digg is integrated with most of Google’s services, the real work for Google begins: turning Digg into a mainstream social destination. Digg is the main player in the social media world, but as I’ve said before, it’s small when compared to the rest of the internet.

  • It is used by a predominently male, 16-34 aged audience (hell, go look at the Valleywag pictures of the NYC meetup, one of which I’ve attached here, for unequivocal proof)
  • Digg is ranked #116 on Alexa. While that’s a number I could never ever dream of reaching with this website, it is trumped by the Amazons, Microsofts, Googles, and even the Megauploads of the world.

A website where the popular will brings out the best the internet has to offer. Doesn’t that sound like something that could be absolutely mainstream? I do, and that’s why I think Google would broadly expand the user base of Digg. Methodically, of course. You can’t change it so fast that its current users abandon it – the community’s very tight-knit and is, rightly so, defensive of its community. But Digg will expand in users as Google integrates Digg into its other services. People who simply come to Google for search and email will learn more and more about the site that generates great content, entirely by the will of the internet. And Digg will grow. Hell, it will balloon.

Digg would be unstoppable if Google buys it.



6) Use Digg data to tweak Google search results (the human factor)

Here’s the most controversial one, one I’m not even sure I agree with. This one would not come until YEARS down the line, after Google has expanded Digg’s demographic and after it has gathered a ton more data through Digg. Remember those social and human-powered search engines I told you about? Well, this would completely eliminate the threat.

Use the social data and commentary from Digg and integrate that data to improve Google search results.

Okay, so Google search results are pretty damn good. Hell, they’re extraordinary. But they are not perfect, and as newer and nimbler companies innovate, Google must respond. Search, in my opinion, is innovating in two directions: Semantic Search and Human Search. In buying Digg, it can most effectively end the threat of human search.

Digg information will be able to better help Google understand demographics, reach, popularity, trends, and more. These are all important in advertising and in search, and using the human data from a more mainstream and more efficient Digg would all assist towards Google’s goal of gathering the world’s information and making it universally useful and accessible. It could use it to create an experimental human search engine or to tweak Google algorithms.

Digg’s information would also help increase advertising revenues by improving advertising targeting.

So I’m going in a million directions, but I’ll just say this: Google search would benefit from information from Digg. Digg would benefit from Google’s reach, engineering, and management.


7) Transform Digg into the destination for social media content

Conclusion Time.

If it isn’t ambitious, it isn’t Google. Google doesn’t buy anything just because it’s a hot property or because it’ll rake in some extra side cash. No, Google buys or builds something because it’s going to create long-term value, create a plethora of synergies, or dominate an industry with an iron fist. DoubleClick? Google wants to rule advertising. YouTube? Google wants to rule video.

Digg? Oh yes, Digg too. Google would buy Digg only if it could use it to rule social media and social software space. So if it does buy Digg, it’s going to make Digg the king of social media. And with Google’s reach and talent, it would almost certainly succeed.



- Ben
(oh, and while we’re on the subject, add me as your friend on Digg)



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  • http://www.keywebdata.com Chris Lang

    WOW, you and I are the only ones saying these things. Why does Google not become the first social search engine? Things to do when Google buys digg. http://www.keywebdata.com/?p=112

  • http://www.googlingsocial.com IamChrisLang

    WOW, you and I are the only ones saying these things. Why does Google not become the first social search engine? Things to do when Google buys digg. http://www.keywebdata.com/?p=112

    • http://www.rocquemarketing.com Rocque

      I had a feeling that you would be here, Chris Lang. When I read this topic on Digg and that is it just now becoming popular, I thought of you. It is nice when a plan comes together isn’t it?
      This is a good article and it is nice to see it getting recognized.

  • Jimmy Jones

    Must be nice. You do know that one day Google is going to take over the World right?

    JT
    http://www.Ultimate-Anonymity.com

  • http://www.promotinglinux.com/truth/ The Digg Insider

    Very interesting read, BUT…

    Digg is partnered up with Microsoft for their ad network, after Google dropped them due to low conversions. There is no way that Google could buy Digg even if they wanted to. There are contractual obligations and competitive clauses all over the place. This deal is worth 100 million to digg over the next 5 years.

  • http://benparr.com Ben Parr

    ,

  • crystalq

    Google's just taking over! Love it, it works great for us many online marketers.

    CQ

    http://makingbigcash.com

  • http://www.CitySpeek.com Jmartens

    great post and great ideas. I hope they do implement these things.

  • Noobixide

    What does it matter if Google is taking over the world? They don't charge for 90% of their services and they don't destroy whoever they buy. Microsoft would buy digg, and then digg would cease to exist. I trust digg in the hands of Google more then I would Microsoft, i mean Microsoft would just trash digg, and use its code to make the help pages more useless. I can see it now, “How to shut down windows KB 1211201 (Digg this)”

  • http://chrismartintx.com chris

    google news sucks… leave digg alone. i don't see why it has to be google'd.

  • http://www.rocquemarketing.com Rocque

    I had a feeling that you would be here, Chris Lang. When I read this topic on Digg and that is it just now becoming popular, I thought of you. It is nice when a plan comes together isn't it?
    This is a good article and it is nice to see it getting recognized.

  • Brent Allsop

    All this digg stuff is great, if you are a particular type of white male tech nerd. But what about everyone else in the world with much more diverse lives and interests?

    Any good diverse ranking algorithm must have access to quantitative rankings of reputations and values of people doing the rankings and other methods of tracking values and biases of contributors. And people need to be able to configure or select the particular ranking algorithm to fit their own unique values and interests.

    With good quantitative reputation data about all contributors and voters, and some creative system design, all the spam, scam, and gaming can be easily simply ignored. Quantitative reputation can do to the entire information/advertizing/news… industries what credit scores have done for the financial industry.

    Much of this kind of stuff is being worked on at the grass roots http://canonizer.com. It is a kind of point of view wiki / open and network based survey system that can track and quantitatively rank the reputations and values of contributors. Why only have island reputations on single systems like eBay? Then everything can be sorted / filtered (canonized if you will) in custom ways using this data.

    Once you know, quantitatively and concisely, the reputation of all information, you can simply and easily ignore all the spam and scam, just like the banks can now ignore the poor credit risks.

  • http://kimberlykimbrough.com KCK

    I would love that these websites would stay true to themselves and not get bought out.
    But hey, if I had a website that dominated one niche, I would surely consider selling too.
    Digg should not be bought by Microsoft. Nor should they be bought by Digg. But the only thing positive that I see is that Digg could be monetized with adsense in the same way as YouTube.
    http://kimberlykimbrough.com

  • http://arhitektonas.blogspot.com herodes

    Guys,.. wake up. Google can create another digg, and probably make it even better. Then … goodbye digg.

  • http://whatareyouwatching.uni.cc TV Spy

    They'll probably add no follow to all the links to lol. I prefer Google doesn't buy it, because it'll change the atmosphere, it'll become too bland and lose it's technology edge – which it still sorta has. If Google buys it they will try to curb the more niche based content into something friendlier to a general audience, meaning that the frontpage will look like it was ripped from a mixture of TMZ/Entertainment Tonight and Divine Caroline.

  • Jimmy Jones

    Must be nice. You do know that one day Google is going to take over the World right?

    JT
    http://www.Ultimate-Anonymity.com

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  • http://www.uncoolcentral.com/ uncoolcentral

    “Use Digg data to tweak Google search results (the human factor)”
    Um… no thanks. I don't think that would make Google results better. Worse? Maybe.

  • http://www.promotinglinux.com/truth/ The Digg Insider

    Very interesting read, BUT…

    Digg is partnered up with Microsoft for their ad network, after Google dropped them due to low conversions. There is no way that Google could buy Digg even if they wanted to. There are contractual obligations and competitive clauses all over the place. This deal is worth 100 million to digg over the next 5 years.

  • Anonymous

    Google’s just taking over! Love it, it works great for us many online marketers.

    CQ

    http://makingbigcash.com

  • http://ThePortlander.com/ Jmartens

    great post and great ideas. I hope they do implement these things.

  • Anonymous

    What does it matter if Google is taking over the world? They don’t charge for 90% of their services and they don’t destroy whoever they buy. Microsoft would buy digg, and then digg would cease to exist. I trust digg in the hands of Google more then I would Microsoft, i mean Microsoft would just trash digg, and use its code to make the help pages more useless. I can see it now, “How to shut down windows KB 1211201 (Digg this)”

  • Allison Davis

    You know why Digg is predominently male, 16-34 aged? Because those users want to keep it that way, and generally think they are smarter than the average person (especially females).

  • http://chrismartintx.com chris

    google news sucks… leave digg alone. i don’t see why it has to be google’d.

  • Kebie

    Social search engine just opens the path way to gaming it even more, I would prefer it to have little impact. Maybe more integration if a news website has gotten an article dugg on a subject it will add to its PR more closely, but that is about it. But this is probably already the case. I probably wouldn't be able to game AAA keywords, but I am sure someone could game 100,000's of obscure ones.

    I think there will probably be a work in with the google search bar, similar to stumbleupon's stumble button. That would probably increase the amount of articles being dugg majorly.

    I would really really like to see a PR ranking –> digg vote needed correlation. I stopped using digg almost a year ago due to the intelligence of the community and articles dropping to almost 0. I don't like reading a blog post of a blog post of a blog post of an actual news reported article.

    Also the Apple can do no wrong 8 articles per front page, is worse then old Slashdot Micro$oft days. I think the intelligence of the community is almost on par with youtube now, and thus will probably be a good fit for google.

  • James Brown

    Google has already been testing Digg-like features for quite some time already – integrating user voting and profiles, etc.

    http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/07/16/is-this-th

  • Brent Allsop

    All this digg stuff is great, if you are a particular type of white male tech nerd. But what about everyone else in the world with much more diverse lives and interests?

    Any good diverse ranking algorithm must have access to quantitative rankings of reputations and values of people doing the rankings and other methods of tracking values and biases of contributors. And people need to be able to configure or select the particular ranking algorithm to fit their own unique values and interests.

    With good quantitative reputation data about all contributors and voters, and some creative system design, all the spam, scam, and gaming can be easily simply ignored. Quantitative reputation can do to the entire information/advertizing/news… industries what credit scores have done for the financial industry.

    Much of this kind of stuff is being worked on at the grass roots http://canonizer.com. It is a kind of point of view wiki / open and network based survey system that can track and quantitatively rank the reputations and values of contributors. Why only have island reputations on single systems like eBay? Then everything can be sorted / filtered (canonized if you will) in custom ways using this data.

    Once you know, quantitatively and concisely, the reputation of all information, you can simply and easily ignore all the spam and scam, just like the banks can now ignore the poor credit risks.

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  • http://kimberlykimbrough.com KCK

    I would love that these websites would stay true to themselves and not get bought out.
    But hey, if I had a website that dominated one niche, I would surely consider selling too.
    Digg should not be bought by Microsoft. Nor should they be bought by Digg. But the only thing positive that I see is that Digg could be monetized with adsense in the same way as YouTube.
    http://kimberlykimbrough.com

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  • http://gparch.org Petsagourakis George

    Guys,.. wake up. Google can create another digg, and probably make it even better. Then … goodbye digg.

  • http://whatareyouwatching.uni.cc TV Spy

    They’ll probably add no follow to all the links to lol. I prefer Google doesn’t buy it, because it’ll change the atmosphere, it’ll become too bland and lose it’s technology edge – which it still sorta has. If Google buys it they will try to curb the more niche based content into something friendlier to a general audience, meaning that the frontpage will look like it was ripped from a mixture of TMZ/Entertainment Tonight and Divine Caroline.

  • http://www.uncoolcentral.com/ uncoolcentral

    “Use Digg data to tweak Google search results (the human factor)”
    Um… no thanks. I don’t think that would make Google results better. Worse? Maybe.

  • Allison Davis

    You know why Digg is predominently male, 16-34 aged? Because those users want to keep it that way, and generally think they are smarter than the average person (especially females).

  • Anonymous

    Social search engine just opens the path way to gaming it even more, I would prefer it to have little impact. Maybe more integration if a news website has gotten an article dugg on a subject it will add to its PR more closely, but that is about it. But this is probably already the case. I probably wouldn’t be able to game AAA keywords, but I am sure someone could game 100,000′s of obscure ones.

    I think there will probably be a work in with the google search bar, similar to stumbleupon’s stumble button. That would probably increase the amount of articles being dugg majorly.

    I would really really like to see a PR ranking –> digg vote needed correlation. I stopped using digg almost a year ago due to the intelligence of the community and articles dropping to almost 0. I don’t like reading a blog post of a blog post of a blog post of an actual news reported article.

    Also the Apple can do no wrong 8 articles per front page, is worse then old Slashdot Micro$oft days. I think the intelligence of the community is almost on par with youtube now, and thus will probably be a good fit for google.

  • James Brown

    Google has already been testing Digg-like features for quite some time already – integrating user voting and profiles, etc.

    http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/07/16/is-this-the-future-of-search/

  • http://www.hiphopmakers.com Mark V

    I Love google and digg. I hope it wouldn't mess up digg though.

    http://www.hiphopmakers.com

  • mickrussom

    Stop group think, censorship and general communism common on digg.

    Make comments up-able only, and stop this inane desire for people to suppress what they don't agree with, rather, up-tick things that they DO agree with.

    Mobs are really overly into though suppression.

  • Kevin Rose

    You left out the most important one!

    8. Not fire any of the douche bags at the company so that I may keep my job. Seriously, I'm a sticky tool.

  • http://www.hiphopmakers.com Mark V

    I Love google and digg. I hope it wouldn’t mess up digg though.

    http://www.hiphopmakers.com

  • ryanwaggoner

    Unless Google turns things around, Digg will probably end up like a lot of their acquisitions, which seem to disappear into the bureaucracy and waste away. For some examples:

    - Dodgeball
    - Feedburner
    - GrandCentral
    - Jaiku

    These services have all languished under Google, producing far less innovation and new features than they did while independent. Hopefully Digg won't suffer the same fate.

  • Anonymous

    Stop group think, censorship and general communism common on digg.

    Make comments up-able only, and stop this inane desire for people to suppress what they don’t agree with, rather, up-tick things that they DO agree with.

    Mobs are really overly into though suppression.

  • Kevin Rose

    You left out the most important one!

    8. Not fire any of the douche bags at the company so that I may keep my job. Seriously, I’m a sticky tool.

    • http://mightybrand.com/blog Ryan Waggoner

      Unless Google turns things around, Digg will probably end up like a lot of their acquisitions, which seem to disappear into the bureaucracy and waste away. For some examples:

      - Dodgeball
      - Feedburner
      - GrandCentral
      - Jaiku

      These services have all languished under Google, producing far less innovation and new features than they did while independent. Hopefully Digg won’t suffer the same fate.

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  • http://equiliberate.org Kim

    Great read. Thanks! That Digg might be bought by Digg worries me. And hey, I'm a girl and I've been on Digg for years, although I only just recently made a login – not being able to actually 'digg' articles finally wore me down.

  • http://equiliberate.org Kim

    Great read. Thanks! That Digg might be bought by Digg worries me. And hey, I’m a girl and I’ve been on Digg for years, although I only just recently made a login – not being able to actually ‘digg’ articles finally wore me down.

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  • Oz Synergy

    You missed the big one…. Add a picture section!

  • vijaykarthik573

    Digg is going to Google for $200 Million,
    what is interesting is how will Microsoft react, ?

  • Oz Synergy

    You missed the big one…. Add a picture section!

  • Anonymous

    Digg is going to Google for $200 Million,
    what is interesting is how will Microsoft react, ?

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  • dwayne12

    The only chance Digg has at succeeding is if Google does in fact purchase Digg. Digg is good, don't get me wrong. But they're not exactly forefront runners in innovation and a fair algorithm. Most of the top stories on Digg are submitted by the same users, Google could change that. People hear of a large corporation buying out a smaller company or brand and immediately assume that it's for ulterior motives. Don't you people understand that the only way for Digg to survive is for a company like Google to purchase them?

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  • Anonymous

    The only chance Digg has at succeeding is if Google does in fact purchase Digg. Digg is good, don’t get me wrong. But they’re not exactly forefront runners in innovation and a fair algorithm. Most of the top stories on Digg are submitted by the same users, Google could change that. People hear of a large corporation buying out a smaller company or brand and immediately assume that it’s for ulterior motives. Don’t you people understand that the only way for Digg to survive is for a company like Google to purchase them?

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  • dwayne12

    The only chance Digg has at succeeding is if Google does in fact purchase Digg. Digg is good, don't get me wrong. But they're not exactly forefront runners in innovation and a fair algorithm. Most of the top stories on Digg are submitted by the same users, Google could change that. People hear of a large corporation buying out a smaller company or brand and immediately assume that it's for ulterior motives. Don't you people understand that the only way for Digg to survive is for a company like Google to purchase them?

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  • Guest

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  • http://fubap.org/baile Fred

    what would google really do: change all digg buttons into google +1 buttons