Potential Buyers for Digg: Print Media?

A couple of days ago, my friend Allen Stern speculated on his blog that UK newspaper The Guardian might be a potential acquirer for social news site Digg. The basis for Stern’s theory was two-fold: 1. The Guardian has recently begun bolstering its new media portfolio with an acquisition of the blog site PaidContent.org last week for $30 million, and 2. because he’s noticed an up tick in the number of stories from mainstream newspaper sites hitting the front page of Digg.

Taken at face value, neither of those things is really evidence enough to suggest that the Guardian is considering and acquisition of Digg. However, it did prompt analytics company Hitwise to take a closer look at the downstream traffic flowing from Digg to print media sites.

According to the Hitwise, the “News and Media” category has narrowed the gap between it and the second place “Entertainment” category as the third biggest receiver of downstream traffic from the social news site. (Note: these are Hitwise categories, not categories on the Digg site itself.) Year-over-year, traffic from Digg to News and Media sites was up 16% and the “Print” sub-category of News and Media was the largest receiver of Digg traffic in that category at 9% of downstream traffic — up 47% over last year.

What does that all mean? Well, it could mean what Stern suspects it does — that Digg is testing the waters for potential buyers like the Guardian. With print newspapers struggling, it might make sense for a traditional newspaper to acquire a site like Digg. However, because Digg has for months been slowly trying to transition from a mostly tech news site to a more fully rounded mainstream news site, the up tick in traffic to News and Media sites makes sense.

Digg acquisition rumors have become something of a sport for bloggers. A quick trip down memory lane reveals that Digg was to be acquired by Yahoo! in January 2006. A few months later, in September, it was News Corp. doing the buying. Then in 2007 Digg reportedly hired an investment bank to shop it at a $300 million price tag. Last March, Google and Microsoft were rumored to be in a bidding war for the social news site, while last month it was just Google. Perhaps the only thing more fun for Valley-watching bloggers than getting on the front page of Digg is doing so with a rumor of a Digg acquisition.

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  • Anonymous

    As a former employee of “the Hitwise” (is that anything like “the Google”?), I can say all those metrics indicate is that sites in the News and Media category are a good place for The Guardian to invest some of their online marketing spend. It has absolutely nothing to do with potential buyouts at all. There isn’t even a mention of The Guardian in that Hitwise report.

    There are much more detailed reports available from them which will confirm your suspicions without the wild conjecture.

    If you want access to the Digg traffic for ad impressions, I doubt it’s going to work well if you are a news company. It goes against the whole grain of what Digg is about. Can they really own a site like Digg and remain impartial and drive traffic to their print media site? Would their users ever really trust the links on the site if they could never be 100% sure the displayed links weren’t influenced by the owner news company? They are better off concentrating on the sites that benefit directly from Digg traffic rather than Digg itself.