This question was prompted by the perception that more and more Guardian stories (and stories from other MSM outlets) seem to be creeping further and further up the home page on Digg, at the expense of those tech-fixated sources which used to dominate.
If this were the consequence of an editorial decision on the part of Digg’s hierarchy, it might well make good sense for both parties. Newspapers are losing out to search engines (and to one in particular), so why not confront this problem by buying into the way (or rather one of the ways) search is heading in future?
It’s an intriguing theory, albeit one based on supposition rather than any smoking gun.
You’d think that particular title would have it’s hands full right now, in honeymoon mode so to speak.
But just 24 hours earlier, Jeff put the cat amongst the pigeons with some blue skies thinking around the theme of where the media might go in future with it’s business models.
Why don’t newspapers offload production and distribution of their content to a company who knows exactly what it’s doing online, who is already doing it well, like, say… Google?
This suggestion sparked good debate, with some in the industry betraying a propensity toward Marxist thought – ownership of the means of distribution is clearly crucial to some.
Nevertheless, with the ongoing malaise across the media market, many newspaper execs must be scratching their heads, contemplating all the different ways they might make their titles sustainable, but moreover profitable into an online future.
If a newspaper were to buy out a social news service like Digg, and introduce more of it’s readers to the service, they could develop a network of mutual trust and self-interest across the net, which could certainly be monetized some way down the line.
However, that’s for the future. In the here and now, there have been several murmurings in the blogosphere about just how the MSM are getting their titles top of the heap in social news services.
Back in June, Paul Bradshaw questioned how The Daily Mail had suddenly become so successful on Digg and Reddit. Then a fortnight ago, Matt Wardman took a forensic look at how the UK online media are tampering with their content for optimal recall (suggesting the possible use of foul means).
It would seem the media are still in denial when it comes to the future – its cheaper and easier to boost your ABCe figures by twisting the system, than by creating and fostering a social network around your content.
But, long-term this is a busted flush – as another controversial Jeff Jarvis post hinted at last week – Google is getting better at spotting those foul means, and sorting the wheat of good content from the chafe of mendacious SEO.*
Whether or not any media company are sizing up Digg (or any of the other social news services out there), its certainly something to consider.
If you open up a genuine two-way dialogue with your readers, it opens up the possibility of moving your business model away from production, and toward providing a service – something many who’ve been contemplating this issue for much longer than me, are well attuned to.
That said, there are some who would urge a note of caution – just how social are social news sites?
*And yes, for anyone who reads this and wonders, I am fully aware SEO is mostly used for good. <ok>