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Digg, superficial traffic, and conversations

Traffic that comes from the news aggregators doesn't seem to hang around for long. Are we creating a culture of superficiality?

I'm with Nick Carr on this one: Techmeme doesn't drive much traffic. Nor does Valleywag, in my experience. These sites are said to be important within Silicon Valley circles, but I've had stories hit both, and the most I've seen from them is a few hundred pageviews.

Digg drives tens of thousands. Slashdot is the same. Groklaw, too, is up there. The Silicon Valley aggregators? Not so much.

It may be, as Nick allows, that these sites are important for the influencers that read them. But they're certainly not important for volume. Nick writes:

Techmeme must have a fairly modest, if rabid, audience. The pageviews are probably pretty high, but the unique visitor count is probably much lower. Techmeme seems a lot bigger than it really is, at least to some of us.

Maybe. On a good day.

However, here's another interesting factoid: Readers who come from Digg, StumbleUpon and Reddit (I've had stories on each) tend to be a bit more superficial. They don't stay as long on the site. Less than 10 seconds in many cases (5 seconds, in the case of Digg). I think they tend to read headlines, and not much beyond that.

People coming from Slashdot, Groklaw, LinuxToday and the developer sites (as well as from fellow bloggers) tend to spend at least a minute reading through a post, and often much longer. They're here to read, analyze, and agree or disagree. But not to superficially gaze on a headline.

All of which makes me wonder: Are Digg and the popularity sites doing more harm than good? Do they make a cheap headline worth more than real analysis?