Ditto.net gets put to one side by Bauer Media

It’s with a little sadness that I’m writing about the decision by Bauer Media to shelve Ditto.net – the social entertainment guide which I was fortunate enough to have been involved with for a time.

It’s an understandable decision by Bauer Media. Having apparently spent £1 million on funding the site and development, there wasn’t a huge amount of either revenue or growth becoming available. And it makes more sense to use the technology to enhance the already popular brands in the portfolio than to continue trying to develop an entirely new one which hasn’t quite made it.

It’s understandable – but not necessarily the right move.

With some tweaks and some more time I still believe Ditto could be a major success.

If anything the need for a product to filter the sheer volume of entertainment content available has become greater in the time since Ditto launched. The amount of text and video online outweighs the production output of the printing press and the celluloid camera by some considerable margin. And there are relatively few solutions that work effectively – and even fewer from any established media companies.

But building growth, particularly organic, sustainable growth, takes a longer amount of time to show a return than a comparable print launch, because the combination of purchase price and higher advertising rates in print make an instant impact against the costs. It took Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Ebay, Flickr etc a surprisingly long period to reach the exponential growth which gave them the ‘overnight success’ tag.

Combine that with a revenue model which relied on traditional display advertising sales, and there was always going to be a problem.

Having said all that, there were some really interesting successes, including the promotion of ‘The Rock Stars of Web 2.0’, in conjunction with Dave Cushman, and which showed how traffic and inbound links could be generated.

Still, at the end of the day I enjoyed a great learning experience helping the Ditto team (And just to clarify after a flattering mention on PaidContent, I was involved as a marketing manager, rather than a developer. Sadly I can only aspire to the technical skills to be a developer!). And the co-founders have and will continue to have great success – Colin Kennedy was recently announced as the new Editor of FHM, and Dhiraj Mukharjee will always be working towards something interesting.

My only regret is not pushing harder for the revenue model I proposed for the project (but that means it’s still up for grabs one day!), and never managing to get them to redesign the Ditto Blog!

More on Digg – will business kill the community?

It’s been interesting following recent events concerning Digg, especially considering my previous posts outlining the personal and idealogical problems I have with Digg, and the alternative ways available to get crowd sourced news.

I just read a great summary post by David Chen on Mashable, ‘Digg’s recent bans and the limits of crowdsourcing‘ which is a comprehensive look at what David calls ‘building a flawed system’, and the lessons learned – as well as looking at why Digg has banned top users, and how the business strategy is changing.

It reminded me of something I’d noticed recently. Here’s a graph from Compete, comparing Digg (blue line), with an alternative social content site, Mixx.com (red line).

Now, while it’s obvious that Digg is massively ahead at the moment, it appears to have levelled off significantly – and at the same time, notice how Mixx has grown around the same time as the Digg banhammer started making an appearance?

Now look at Mixx in detail:

Anyone else see something kickstarting some growth around Apri/May 2008?

What to do when you are banned from digg. - Mixx

Two things spring to mind. One is that Digg has vocally supported the community, and allowed top users a longstanding reign over the rest of the site – which means changing things, particularly without a clear warning, is always going to lead to problems – the question will be how big the problems will become?

And secondly, so many web services which seem to embrace, support and provide a Web 2.0, social media type approach, actually fall down on the Customer Service which is preached by those using them. I’ve always found Digg support to be incredibly varied, but always anonoymous. And the fall back is always on ‘the best for Digg users’ without ever explicitly saying what that means.

Other social news aggregations and voting sites like Reddit have also seen some growth, although in Reddit’s case, it may be down to other factors, such as opening up their service to Open Source installations.

But the fact that the high profile, long term devotees of Digg could be powering the rise in a close rival (in terms of the type of service provided) could prove to be a very interesting case study – if the very people Digg banned turn out to be able to power the rise of a challenge.