It's difficult to imagine a world where Facebook is no longer important, Twitter was a fad, and Reddit stopped sending traffic, but the one thing that has been relatively constant in social media is that sites and the companies that run them are never "too big to fail." Digg has been dying since their disastrous switch to V4 in August, 2010 and as trends have proven, there was no chance of a rebound.
With a little help from Facebook and improvements in their functionality, Digg is on its way towards doing the impossible—being a social media site that fell from grace but pulled itself back up with a positive turn.
Digg's blog post today subtly highlights that they had a significant 35% increase in traffic in January. Facebook played a major role in the turnaround, with a 67% boost in referral traffic thanks to the Digg Social Reader, a timeline app that Digg released late last year.
It achieved its highest pageview totals since October 2010. As the graphic below that they put together indicates, Digg is not just taking the traffic from Facebook but also the data they're able to obtain from sharing in general.
This is important to every social media site that exists today (and tomorrow) because it offers hope that turnarounds are possible. The most appealing property of social media—meteoric rises of sites like Pinterest and Chime.in—is also the seed for its biggest weakness: sharp declines and eventual death.
Sites like Delicious and Flick have shown recently that changes in style and philosophy can hold back the demons of death for a little while, but even they haven't seen much of a bump. 35% for a site as large as Digg is huge.
Perhaps more importantly, Digg was on top at one point. It's hard for a social media site that fades, but it's double-difficult for one that was on top and lost its way. MySpace is the easy example there. They were everything in the world of social networking for a couple of years before starting their rapid decline and eventual pivot away from true social networking.
When a site whose CEO was on the cover of Business Week just a few years ago finds itself on the sharp decline that Digg has experienced in the last year and a half, it's a safe bet that the end is near. These new numbers show that the end is far from near and that companies who start to fade may not have to give up home.
If this continues to work and Digg grows to previous traffic levels or beyond, we may see "pulling a Digg" become synonimous with social media turnarounds from the brink. If they continue to trend towards profitability as CEO Matt Williams promised late last year, Digg's story will not only be discussed but examined by startups and veteran companies currently playing in social media.
Will it last? That remains to be seen but it's the most important news to come out of Digg's camp since Williams took over.
Here's their infographic. Click to enlarge.