What happens when Slashdot declines?

Jason Kottke on digg vs. slashdot:

But over a period of about 4 days, Slashdot has sent more than 4 times the number of visitors to kottke.org than Digg — despite a 18-hour headstart for Digg — and the aftershock for Slashdot is much larger and prolonged. It’s been four days since the Slashdotting and kottke.org is still getting 15,000 more visitors a day than usual. This indicates that although Digg may rapidly be catching up to Slashdot traffic-wise, it has a way to go in terms of influence[4].

Slashdot is far from dying…the site still wields an enormous amount of influence. That’s because it’s been around so long, it’s been big, visible, and influential for so long, and their purpose is provide their audience with 20-25 relevant links/stories each day. The “word-of-mouth” network that Slashdot has built over the years is broad and deep. When a link is posted to Slashdot, not only do their readers see it, it’s posted to other blogs (and from there to other blogs, etc.), forwarded around, etc. And those are well-established pathways.

These are interesting conclusions, and the article is worth reading. But Kottke mistakenly assumes that slashdot will be able to maintain its current traffic volume. It will not. It is impossible. Slashdot’s success arose mainly because few sites were using user submissions and comments to attract more readers. It provided very little original content. Digg is doing essentially the same thing, but without the legion of loyal readers. But loyalties change, especially when the brash upstart is offering essentially the same service.

Note to slashdot: at some point you’re going to have to start offering original content. Or at least guarantee a steady collection of intelligent commenters who will stick around and say things that are witty and profound. If you can’t offer original content and context for commenting, then your reader base will fragment over time.

Slashdot does a few things very well. I just love the interviews with famous people where commenters can submit questions. These are always great reading. Although I seem to have fallen out of disfavor from the Book Reviews, in fact, when they did publish reviews, these reviews had no word limits or size restrictions. That was great. Also, I loved the way slashdot let users customize their home page to filter out certain topics.

For two or three years, Slashdot was king. Also, I don’t mean to imply that slashdot isn’t still interesting; it just needs to capitalize on its current mindshare to spin off new features and types of content. slashdot, digg, metafilter, fark, blogcritics…who can tell the difference nowadays?

See also: Slashdot trolling phenonomen