The 5 Most Successful People-Powered News Sites – and 30 Failures

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Last week, a review of the top five people-powered or community news websites generated a lot of interest and questions about other players in that space. We review some of the players and find the top sites are well ahead of the pack while many others have already failed. Here is an updated analysis after undertaking extra research.

Digg inspired a lot of competition. But are any of these sites successful?

There are literally hundreds of digg-like sites that have jumped on the people-powered news bandwagon. Yet, my analysis shows almost all have failed to achieve critical mass, and many have already closed up shop. That said, a few do appear to be on their way to success.

Which are the most successful people-powered news sites?

#1 Digg

#2 Reddit

#3 Care2 News Network

#4 Shoutwire

#5 Netscape

This analysis is based on the average number of votes the stories have on the front page, along with the number of votes for the most popular stories for the past month. Digg is the clear leader, with Reddit showing some impressive numbers as well. The one that will probably surprise a lot of people is Care2. They launched their version of Digg for progressive / green news back in January.

Time to market seems to be one of the keys to success here – particularly for Digg and Reddit. Care2 wasn’t the third to launch (maybe the fourth?), but they had the advantage of being an existing community of six million activists. They also have a clear niche (progressive news) which Shoutwire lacks.

There’s been a lot of talk that it only takes a relatively small number of super users to get one of these sites going, but clearly that’s not enough to be successful. It’s not clear yet what a site needs to achieve critical mass in this space, but based on my observations over the past several months the top 5 all appear to be growing (with the exception perhaps of Shoutwire) while the rest of the competition appear to be steady or declining.

I’m sure Netscape will do well given their existing traffic, but so far they seem to be running a distant fifth place in the race. They appear to get a relatively high number of comments though, which is an indication of a successful news community (and perhaps a result of their Anchors-as-facilitators strategy?)

I suspect there will be a few other successful niche news sites that will make it, but the general take away seems to be that the game is over – you either need to be one of the first to market and/or have a lot of traffic to make it sustainable. This part of the Web 2.0 bubble has already popped.

Pligg / Meneame. The list below contains another 50+ sites that are dead or nearly so – and most appear to be using Pligg / Meneame or something similar. These are open source systems, based on Digg. Memeame was first, in Spanish and Pligg used their code base and then split off on its own path. I have contributed a small amount of code to Pligg and experimented with it myself. It’s interesting to see that all of the top 5 rolled their own app. I’m not sure whether that indicates sites need to use a more custom solution to be successful, or if it’s just another reflection that time to market was key (Netscape excepted).

Here’s some data to back up my analysis (data from: Tue, PM, Aug 22, 2006)

Average number of front page votes (for top 20 stories) of the day:

#1 Digg 447

#2 Reddit 157

#3 Care2 51

#4 Shoutwire 40

#5 Netscape 21

Median number of homepage votes (for top 20 stories):

#1 Digg 392

#2 Reddit 139

#3 Care2 44

#4 Shoutwire 36

#5 Netscape 18

Additional sites among the top 25 and average number of votes for top 20 Front Page stories:

#6 Videosift 14

#7 Fantacular 14

#8 Videobomb 11

#9 QoolSqool 10

#10 InboxNews 9

#11 Crankk 8

#12 Hugg 8

#13 Dzone 7

#14 EatMyHamster 6

#15 Blog Memes 5

#16 PopCurrent 5

#17 Nooz 5

#18 DissectMedicine 4

#19 meme-stream 4

#20 Livelocker 3

#21 topkix 3

#22 Humdigg 3

#23 ByteMyCode 2

#24 autospies 2

#25 iTalkNews 2

Other people powered news sites that appear to be dead or nearly so:

APBNews

Binarylaw

Bitchabouttech

Bringr

Business-planet.net

CC Hits

Diggers

Diggnews

Funnydigg

GoogleKicks

Hitsmit

HR Salad

kablogs

Marketpicks

Meedio

motorplus

Newsbump.net

NewsCloud

NewsGarbage

Oks

ParrotAddict

Phetchit

Quadriot

Scoop.net

Scoopity

Sperocite

Sportsblink

Tribalwar

VCNewsCentral

Web-Feeds

Wizag

YouPickNews

Zapptor

There are a number of other sites that no longer even exist, which would have made the “dead list” even longer, but the above is grim enough to demonstrate the perils of trying to be a me-too site. Many of these sites have some activity, but it seems to be mostly from the owner of the website. To make it in any meaningful way, they need a compelling story to tell and some fanatical belivers to participate and spread the word.

Note that I didn’t rely on Alexa because of the webmaster bias (which would penalize a non-techie site like Care2) and for certain sites it’s hard to determine where the traffic is actually going (such as Netscape).

Velocity of stories hitting the front page matters too, but based on my observations there doesn’t appear to be a huge difference between the top five sites, though stories appear to stay on Shoutwire the longest, and Digg the shortest time. My analysis therefore probably somewhat under-represents the lead that Digg has over the other services. Note that some of the sites listed above as “dead” actually show some high vote counts on their front pages, but the stories appear to have been sitting there for weeks or longer.

The other compounding challenge in analyzing the numbers is that it’s possible to down-vote on Reddit and some others, but it’s highly unlikely that would push it past Digg for the top slot or make much of a difference in the other rankings.

I didn’t include other models in this analysis, such as newsvine or machine-powered-aggregators given the obvious differences in approach and the higher costs of entry versus a fully community powered model.

I also didn’t include the grand-daddy of them all, Slashdot, because moderators select the stories, not members. Although Slashdot doesn’t have votes, it has comments. An average of 133 comments per story, against Digg’s average of 80 comments and 447 diggs per story, at the time of writing.

I couldn’t draw any conclusions from this because it is easier to digg a story than to comment on it, there is no easy way to tell the number of unique commenters and digg has many more stories per day than slashdot. All I can say is they are both popular sites, each with their own niche audience and a different enough model and vibe, fans and foes – that they will likely continue along their separate paths, unaffected by each other. Digg definitely has the capacity for much more growth because it appeals to a much wider audience, while slashdot is almost exclusively for nerds.

This space definitely needs to be watched. It will be interesting to see how the top five fare over the next few months and to see activity in the the 5 to 25 space. Care2, with its green niche and a large membership, and Netscape with its big name and big following could be contenders. It will be especially instructive to see what Netscape can do, because they had a very late start. I know of one big audience player considering an entry to the market early next year, so if they learn the right lessons, there could be more shake-ups coming.

No matter what brands enter the people-powered news arena, Digg is by far the clear leader and it will take much more than a “me too” application to even get close to them. Paticipation is the key.

Here is a link to the initial story.

Alan Gray is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of NewsBlaze Daily News and other online newspapers. He prefers to edit, rather than write, but sometimes an issue rears it’s head and makes him start pounding the keyboard. Alan has a fascination with making video and video editing, so watch out if he points his Canon 7d in your direction.