Is it OK to Write for Digg?

Digg BaitingThis is the first post from Digg power user Muhammad Saleem, who will be offering tips about creating content that appeals to users of social media news sites.

Back in January, Ethan Kaplan proposed a new term to describe certain sites:

Made for Digg (MFD), just like Made for Adsense sites, these are sites that are specifically formatted as Digg bait…

While people often argue that there is something inherently wrong with content that is specifically designed to be consumed by socially driven sites, I was probably one of the first people to go on the record arguing to the contrary, and the reasoning behind my stance is simple. For content to be successful on Digg, i.e. for it to be classified as “Digg bait,” it really has to appeal to the community and it has to incite a passionate response from the users, whether the response be good or bad.

But Digg tends to become like crack for many writers and after they get on Digg once, there is an intense desire to try to keep getting on Digg. It is here that writers often start disregarding their loyal readers, start pandering to Digg, and run into trouble. Therefore, when it comes to MFD content, we introduce a caveat: It is okay to try and write for Digg as long as you can appeal to the Digg community and get the users to be passionate about your content, without deviating too much from the kind of content you would otherwise produce.

Writing for Digg is actually less about substance and more about how you present the content—in other words, copywriting. This entails writing the same content that you would normally write, but altering it in a way that doesn’t take away from its essence while making it appealing to the broader Digg audience. This is the kind of content that both your regular readers and potential new readers will appreciate.

Pandering to Digg, on the other hand, entails going out of your way to write something you wouldn’t ordinarily write and that won’t necessarily appeal to your regular readers, but you still write it just because it appeals to the Digg readership and may get you those extra visitors. By doing this, you risk alienating your core readership for a chance at a big traffic rush that might not convert to regular readership.

I have always maintained that by creating content with a clear audience in mind, you can create more focused content that appeals to them directly. But you have to think of your site as having a ‘core-audience’ and a ‘peripheral-audience’. For some sites the core-audience is the social media audience, but for most sites the core-audience comprises of your RSS subscribers and other readers that visit and comment on your content daily. And for these kinds of sites, social media should be used to expand your audience, not to build your audience at the expense of your regular readers.

For the latter case, you can try and reach the peripheral audience (coming from Digg, Netscape, Reddit, and so on) by making certain small tweaks to your content. For the next few posts I will go into detail and explain how exactly you should make these tweaks to your post titles, the opening paragraphs, and content summaries.

Read more from Muhammad Saleem at Pronet Advertising.

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Reader Comments (53)

  1. says

    I’m glad you threw in that last paragraph — I’m a little confused by what makes something digg-worthy or digg-able. I’ve heard people talk about digg users like they’re some kind of mutants, and they follow predictable voting patterns like they’re part of some collective conciousness. I use digg. I also use StumbleUpon!,, Twitter, and photographyVoter. I don’t feel that I’m some kind of wild stereotypical voter — I just vote for and share the content I like. Though I must say that I’ve been a little confused as to why certain articles I submit take off and others (usually better articles in my opinion) flop.

  2. says

    Yeah, I think you’re right in that writing for Digg actually can help you more than hinder. I for one, like to read other people’s “Diggable” posts, as they’re normally catchy, to the point and contain lots of useful, relevant information.

    It’s when the person writes too much in the same “Diggable” style that the problems start and the niche topic on the blog becomes a bit wishy washy.

  3. says

    Great post, Mu! :) I agree – it’s a very fine line between writing MFD posts that also fit your blog. Quite frankly, it took a little help from Neil at Elite Retreat and nearly 9 months blogging before I figured it out myself. And you can’t write that kind of content all of the time either – usually great linkbait takes much longer to write than a regular blog post. Good stuff!

  4. says

    Writting for digg is fine and dandy if you are in the tech sphere but its a bit harder if you are trying to focus on something more niche oriented. Great piece however.

  5. says

    Is it okay to write a press release so that newspapers would like to print it? Sure. But if it doesn’t appeal to your audience, it will most likely clutter your brand thus confusing your ‘core’-customers.

    I don’t see why this should be any different; though you might need to deliver the message in another way (it’s not pro journalists picking up the stories).

    Very nice article. Love these guest-postings.

  6. says

    Hi Andy,

    I saw that pledge a while back, and I completely agree with it. I specifically pointed out in the article that ‘writing’ for Digg is okay, ‘pandering’ to Digg is not. And if you look at what you outline in your pledge, you are also pointing out that you will not pander to Digg.

    We are in agreement.

  7. says

    If Digg is part of your marketing strategy how can it be bad to write for it? TV advertisers write copy for TV viewers, direct mail advertisers write copy for postal customers, print advertisers write copy for newspaper readers.

    The goal of writing for Digg is no different than writing copy for any other part of your marketing strategy…make it relevant to those who are reading it and have it make them want to take some positive action toward your business.

  8. says

    We have had a lot more success with Reddit than we have had with Digg. I wish there were more “Diggs” out there that had a broader or different audience that the very net-centric techies on Digg. But, the vlume of traffic you can get from Digg or Reddit is huge and worth pursuing.

    We put together “10 Tips for Marketing on Social News Sites”, click my name to see the article.

  9. says

    Muhammad, really looking foward to reading your next posts on the subject. The article by Mike Volpe (above my comment) is also a good read.

    “MFD”, made for digg.. would there be such thing as “MFN” made for Netscape, or “MFR” made for Reddit? :)

  10. says

    I like Muhammad’s point in response to Andy – if the writing is good, it will be dugg. I don’t flood Digg and coRank with my own writing, but if it is a good post, it turns up there anyway, and if it wasn’t, well, maybe that is one I should have thought about more before posting.

    Cheers, Andrew

  11. says

    This really is a good post. I’ve been digging my content myself for the past few months, but from the lack of others that digg it I knew I must be doing something wrong. I wasn’t writting specifically for the digg audience rather I was writting to mine. This gives me great food for thought when it comes to getting my content dug.

  12. says

    Web users are like water, they continuously search for the path of least resistance. In the search for traffic and the great free $$$ the initial purpose of sites like DIGG is now lost. I would love to know what the ratio is of front page articles that make it on Digg that are pure articles versus those that are DIGG bait. I guess it is the nature of success and social websites, it is a shame that that successfully sites can lose their core nature so quickly…

  13. says

    My boss says – “we need to be on digg” – but we don’t have writers that write any juicy original content – so how do I follow orders? We are a high tech company that manufacturers computer stuff, and the only thing coming out of the writing department are pr’s about product releases and events we attend. I am not a writer, however I’m considering putting something together myself. We started a company blog last year, and get some weekly industry interviews – which I tried to submit to digg, but they are just not popular I guess. I’m not so thrilled about digg.

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