Social News sites are a popular subject and it seems everybody wants to start a digg clone of some type nowadays for various different reasons, many social news sites launch however very few ever become even relatively successful. So is it worth starting a Digg Clone type website and if you decide it is what system should you use and how can you give it the best chance of success, in this article we hope to provide some information gained from experience to help answer some of these questions.
The first thing to consider is the type of content that you want your site to cover, is it going to be a general news site covering a multitude of topics or a niche focused social news site covering only a specific subject.
If you are going to cover general news over may topics the main thing to consider is that there are more successful and established websites already covering this subject very well. Sites like Digg.com, Mixx.com, Reddit and Propeller have already taken this marketplace and have lots of funding and custom applications that will keep them at the top. Someone starting a social news site with open source software who tries to compete with these larger sites that are in the same marketplace will not do well at all, lots of social news site owners who were full of optimism in the beginning and launched sites of this nature quickly find out it was a mistake after some months.
So what about niche based social news websites? Starting a niche focused social news website may be your best chance of success as always though you should evaluate the competition within your chosen niche. For example if you wanted to start a niche social news site focused on web development and design dzone.com, designfloat.com and designbump.com are already established within this field with dzone and designbump doing particularly well already. In this case you would be better looking at other niches that may have not been covered already and that there is a demand for, this is not an easy task but choosing the correct niche thats not yet being served and has potential traffic can only help your chances of success.
Simply setting up a social news site and hoping to take any considerable traffic away from established sites will ultimately result in failure and a non participant based site, research is key to success so research potential niches and the traffic these niche subjects could generate.
Choosing A System
This can be the most difficult decision when setting up your own social news website, it’s also worth noting that it’s probably the most important decision you will make after selecting your topic subject matter. There are currently three systems to consider when setting up a social news based website, Drigg for Drupal, Social Web CMS and Pligg, all these systems are different in features and reputation.
Pligg is the oldest system available for creating a digg clone type website which was originally forked from the meneame codebase a Spanish based digg clone website. Pligg has had mixed reviews over the past year from moderate to bad, unfortunatley for Pligg the bulk of them have been bad with the system and developers taking major criticism resulting in it’s popularity and usage dropping substantially during this time. Major security vulnerabilities along with poor spam prevention techniques and a lack of development hasn’t helped the systems adoption rates over the past year.
Pligg lost it’s main developer in Feburary of this year and the project completely stalled for some 9 months during this time with little to no knowledge of the situation being conveyed to it’s user base. After development was restarted pligg resorted to taking security fixes from a competing system and it continues to have no clear development plan or direction within the project.
- It’s Free
- No Project Plan Or Development Roadmap
- Limited To No Expandability
- Poor Developer Support and Communication
- No Regular Updates With Poor Bug Reporting System
- Unreliable and Updating Is A Very Hard Process
- Nearly All Official Extras Like Modules and Templates Are Paid Additions That Are Of Poor Quality And Limited Choice
- Poor User and Story Management Features
- Theming for Pligg is hard, and themes are not separate from the codebase
- No Real Spam Protection
Overall Pligg’s reputation has hit rock bottom since it’s initial high when first launched creating more frustration than a functioning website pligg is not a good choice to start a serious social news project with.
Drigg For Drupal
Drigg is a set of modules that have been created for the Award Winning Drupal CMS system. Drigg is different from Pligg in that it runs upon a tried and tested core CMS system Drupal that has a fantastic development team and project roadmap. With excellent expandability and scalability a Drigg powered site can be used for personal projects or professional grade projects alike.
- Excellent Project Plan Or Development Roadmap
- Expandable and Scalable
- Good Developer Support and Communication
- Regular Updates With A Fantastic Bug Reporting System
- Extremley reliable and Updating Is A Simple Process
- Extras Like Modules and Templates Are Mostly All Free And Plentiful
- Excellent User and Story Management Features Especially With Addition Modules
- Theming for Drigg is easy, and themes are completely separate from the codebase
- Can be Daunting To Setup At First
Looking at Drigg it’s everything Pligg isn’t and with v6 of Drupal Drigg is a system that can run a very large social news website without any troubles that a pligg based site will pose. If you are new to web development you will no doubt find Drigg a little harder to setup than pligg but there is information available that will make the task a lot simpler, also the effort in setting up a drigg based site is well worth it in the longterm for your project. Drigg is the professional grade system of choice for those serious about their social news project, with addition modules you can configure this Drupal based system into a very feature rich website that just isn’t possible with it’s competitors.
Social Web CMS
Social Web CMS is a fork of the Pligg codebase that was started by Pligg’s previous lead developer AshDigg and has attracted some of the users and owners of larger websites within the pligg community. Social Web CMS or SWCMS for short has seen significant changes in it’s codebase since it was originally forked from Pligg and has a clear development and project plan something which Pligg lacks. SWCMS is also the system Pligg got 95% of their security fixes from that allowed them to release v9.9.5 a day after SWCMS released a version of their system which fixed the security holes.
- Clear Development Roadmap Plan
- Good Developer Support and Communication
- Extras Like Modules and Templates Are Mostly All Free
- SWCMS Module Store Updates and Downloads Modules From Admin Panel
- Slightly Better Spam Protection Than Pligg
- Poor User and Story Management Features
- Theming for SWCMS is hard, and themes are not separate from the codebase although SWCMS are working towards this goal
As SWCMS is originally based upon the pigg system you would expect more than a few similarities in function and code. SWCMS seem to have a different direction to pligg though with the goal of making things more modular and easier to upgrade in the future with the eventual goal that the core can upgrade it’s self much like WordPress. SWCMS also has a clear development plan and is updated frequently.
Over all the system we would recommend is Drigg it’s reliability, upgrades and expandability are something the others can not yet offer. With Drigg you can build a fully featured social News website with features like social networking, blogs, forum and almost anything else you desire, most of these features are as simple as installing a module and configuring it. To acheive these advanced features with Pligg or SWCMS is simply not possible and if it was you would need to utilize other external scripts and web applications, Drigg for Drupal can perform all of these features and more under a single system which is extremely beneficial as a site expands.
Launching Your Site To The World
So you have now identified a promising niche and chosen a system to deploy for you project but thats only the beginning you now need to choose hosting get a design and launch your site. In this part of the article we will cover certain aspects that can make or break a site.
Good hosting is important to the success of your project a website that is unreachable often or is slow to load will affect it’s popularity along with the projects overall success. If your serious about your project start off on a inexpensive dedicated server and you will give it the best start in live it can get, go for shared hosing if you budget is tight and ultimately you are less serious about your projects success.
Starting off with a dedicated host will pose you less problems in the early days of continually moving your site around shared hosts looking for a better one, in our experience usually there aren’t any and more often than not sites suffer because of this.
The design of you site is important the biggest mistake you can do is use the default templates that these systems are supplied with. It’s not the end of the world if you cannot afford a custom template or cannot design one yourself but it will certainly help if you can to differentiate your site from all the others who use the same template. It also stops the “Just Another Pligg, Drigg SWCMS site” phrase that sites with these templates usually get tagged with, a custom design shows you have placed effort into your project and are serious about it. A default template usually indicates a lack of effort and experience on the owners part ultimately affecting user sign ups and interaction.
Categories are important and should be well thought out especially within a niche site they should be clear and concise. Less is more only chose categories that you think will be utilized to submit content to, there is no point having thirty categories if users are only submitting to ten of them. As you site develops you can add more and consult your user base to see what categories they would like to see added, this way you can see if the demand is there for adding new categories on your site.
All of the system we spoke about allow you to import content from external sites via rs feeds our recommendation however is you do not use this feature. Social news sites exist and thrive on user submissions and interaction, auto importing articles can and will seriously damage a sites reputation and user experience. User submitted content is key to a social news sites success and growth otherwise it simply turns into a site where no one interacts or votes upon articles, this leads to a downwards spiral in traffic and sign ups.
We know website owners need to make some revenue to cover server costs but is it worth placing adsense etc on a new site to earn $0 to $0.50 per day if your lucky? We would recommend that you consider leaving Adsense or similar off of your site up until you are receiving 1000+ hits per day, even then you may only make around $2.00 per day. Trying to find yourself a site sponsor or targeted affiliate in the early days is a better idea and keeps the site cleaner for users to experience. Also when integrating advertising keep it subtle and fluid, don’t just paste Adsense code to try or where you think that it will get lots of clicks people are wiser than that and it affects the user experience usually in a bad way.
Community and User base Interaction
This is the most important factor for any social news based website if you don’t have users you don’t get content submitted, if users don’t comment on submitted content their is no interaction or discussions. Unfortunately there is no guide book or tutorial available that can reveal how to get members that actively participate on your site, but if you can’t get members to sign up and participate your site will become stale very fast.
The best you can do to begin with is submit stories and get anyone you know to do the same, comment on stories and interact with others. Don’t setup multiple accounts and go on a split personality mission as soon you will find the time needed to be 10 people submitting and commenting is too much. You also build up a pattern as no stories are submitted while you are at work or sleeping, real members have different time zones so your submissions and comments with your 10 users will look unnatural.
Promote your site anyway you can
- Contact Blogs / Sites Within Your Sector And Ask For A Review
- Guest Post On Blogs Within Your Sector
- Start Your Own Blog Related To Your Site And It’s Niche
- Submit Your Site To Other Social News and Bookmarking Websites
- Get Your Site On Twitter, friendfeed and any other services you can utilize
- Try To Get 2 Quality “Do Follow” Backlinks Per Day
- Communicate With Your Userbase Regularly And Try To Include Them In Any Site Decisions By Holding Polls etc Or Asking For Feedback
- Try To Get 2 Quality “Do Follow” Backlinks Per Day
- Encourage Members To Help Promote The Site
Starting a Social News website is not an easy task and requires a lot of time, effort and thought, hopefully this article will have given you some ideas and motivation if your thinking of starting you own social news website. Don’t expect to make a lot of money or become a competitor to digg as it’s not going to happen, with some time and effort though you can build a successful social news website within a niche that will bring yourself and many others hours of pleasure and discovery.
The best tip we could give is leave any “I Am The Site Owner Attitude” well alone, Social News sites are all about the members make them feel as though they control the site and include them in site decisions any way you can.
Category: Social News