What I’ve Learned As Editorial Director Of Digg
I’ve spent the last four years avoiding writing Medium posts. As Editorial Director of Digg, I’m much more comfortable directing readers to great writing created by other people than I am writing about myself or the work I do. (If you’re curious about what Digg editors do all day, by the way, I’ve written about it here.)
Today, I’ve decided to lift my moratorium on this genre of writing to announce that I’ll soon be departing from Digg and beginning a new chapter at The New York Times as a Senior Digital Strategist. I’m incredibly excited about the new gig, but perhaps this is fodder for a different Medium post. You can read more about what I’ll be doing here. In light of this career transition, I thought I would jot down some notes about what I’ve learned at Digg and the lessons I hope will inform my new role.
1. Editorial teams should seek out collaborations with other functions.
The best ideas and products that have sprung out of Digg have come from inter-functional conversation and cooperation (see our RSS reader and live-updating Donald Trump aggregation channel). Digg is lucky to be a small team: we’re 25 people who all sit in the same room, eat lunch together and enjoy each other’s company.
We’re also lucky because we think of ourselves as a hybrid media and technology company — an identity that necessitates a lot of cross-functional work.
2. There are smart readers out there who want to read long things.
We’ve always made a bet on the intelligence of our readers. It’s very easy to get cynical about what people want to click on if you’re just looking at traffic driven by social networks.
As someone who ran a content distribution platform, I can attest to the fact that there’s a sizable user base that wants that long-form article your features editor is proud of, or that investigative piece that doesn’t promise “snackable” conclusions.
At the very least, Digg wants that piece, and you can send it to them at email@example.com.
3. The robots will always need humans.
These days, there’s a lot of ink spilled about the quality of news on various distribution platforms — I won’t use this particular post to weigh in on how Facebook should change their algorithm or what we need to do about the proliferation of fake news. What I have learned, however, is that if you’re delivering news to other humans, you better have a bunch of humans on the other end of the firehouse, filtering and contextualizing the information.
The Digg homepage is great today not because it’s everything for everyone, but because the editors make it clear that certain stories are more important than others and that all the content being surfaced has been vetted for accuracy.
You can read more about Digg’s “cyborg approach to curation” here. One day in the near future, Digg will probably decide to rely on our algorithms more than we do now. I am not scared of this future because I know that at Digg, humans will always be the overlords.
Three lessons seem like enough for today. I’ll finish off my once-in-a-half-decade Medium post with a sincere expression of gratitude for the people who currently work and have worked with me at Digg. You are the kindest, smartest and most energetic people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with and I’ll miss you dearly. I cannot wait to see all the amazing ways Digg will continue to innovate and improve the way people get their news online.
If you want to know more about the future of Digg, you can read our interim CEO Josh Auerbach’s post here.