1 Character Gets Old News to Digg Front Page

    March 8, 2007

You would think it is impossible for one small detail to have a dramatic effect on whether a story is promoted on Digg. Here is how it happened, decide for yourself…

I hadn’t been following the news for a couple of days, so I popped over to one of my old haunts, The Register to see if there was anything I should know about. Occasionally, especially if I visit The Register early morning in Europe, I can pick up some interesting fresh stories that are fairly exclusive, or have some different angles.

I was greeted with this story about Wikipedia:-

Wikipedia scandal story

Great story (scandal and controversy), hot subject (Wikipedia), pretty naff headline ("Farewell, Wikipedia?")

In fact the headline wasn’t a total disaster, it caught my eye, maybe because it could also suggest an end to Wikipedia itself, but maybe that suggestion is a bit subtle.

So I highlighted the very clear "comment" paragraph and hit my "Ultimate Digg Bookmarklet"

Ultimate Digg Bookmarklet? Digg (just drag it to your bookmarks) – I picked this up some time ago in the comments on a blogspot blog, you can probably find it if you search hard enough – supposedly it works in all browsers, and not only picks up the URL and Title, but also the story paragraph you highlight and outputs it in a popup window. It is very useful.

I decided to just use the "comment" paragraph for my headline and story description, and forget the original title.

I ended up with the following:-

24 Year Old Fake Wikipedia Professor Forced To Step Down?

After pressure over the weekend from Wikipedia’s Il Duce Jimmy Wales, the encyclopedia’s most illustrious fake professor Ryan Jordan has resigned his post at Wikia Inc.

I did add one small detail from the original title that just seemed to add a little more curiosity… a question mark "?"

I hadn’t read the whole article in depth, and there could have been a good reason for The Register’s use of the question mark in their title.

The Power Of ?

All I did was submit a story I thought was good, seemed to be original from a reputable source, and which might be of interest to people on Digg.

A couple of hours later it was up to 5 Diggs, and I also noticed a number of similar stories that had quite a few more Diggs. Doing a little searching I discovered the story had been breaking over a number of days. With my submission effectively the same story, though with different commentary, I didn’t expect it to get much reaction.

I am not a top Digg user, and had never had a story promoted before. I have a few friends on Digg, but we are talking 10s, not 100s or even 1000s.

16 hours later I was again browsing through Digg, mainly to see if there were any interesting comments on a story about StumbleUpon I had digged (it is a really good guide).

I was actually extremely shocked when presented with this:-
Wikipedia Digg

As of this writing the story is still live on Digg, it hasn’t been buried.

I Am Not A Copywriter

If this story was being written by Brian over at CopyBlogger or maybe Michel Fortin then they would probably be able to tell you why that particular headline was successful.

I counted at least 20 maybe 30 stories on the same subject, and those were just the ones that didn’t get buried. I am sure The Register being looked upon as a credible source helped, but lots of credible sources were reporting on the same story, and many of the headlines I have seen were very similar, but without one small detail.


It wasn’t until I started reading the comments on the Digg story that I realised why the story might have been Digged, though honestly it wasn’t something that was "engineered for success". All I did was submit a story…

Half the comments were actually related to the question mark, such as

Why is there a question mark in the title?

Hes copying fox news with the question mark. Adds mystery and intrigue hehe.

and many others…

So did one character turn a 4 day old news story into a front page Digg?


*Originally published at AndyBeard.eu