Mixx, a social media submission site, is a newcomer on the scene, so it understandably will take a while for it to catch up with older sites like Digg, Propeller, Reddit, and StumbleUpon. That said, this article looks at the current state of Mixx and the potential future of its small but devoted community.
This might come as a surprise, but Mixx serves approximately 500,000 unique visitors per month and is breaking their engagement record every month, even though the site is barely 6 months out of its private beta. One of the reasons for this is that so much of the activity takes place in the form of conversations (in the private groups as well as user-forums) that isn’t reflected in the metrics.
On a very basic level, Mixx does everything you would expect from your typical social news site. It’s completely user-driven, and all content is submitted, voted upon, and commented on by the site’s users. Content can be submitted to three different categories based on content type – News, Pictures, and Video. What sets Mixx apart from many of the other popular sites is that not only has the site incorporated some of the best features from the many other popular social news sites and aggregated them, but the team behind the site has left the keys to the kingdom in the hands of the community.
Community Recognition Mixx includes an abundance of innovative and differentiating features.
- You can create and edit your own custom homepage (not only which categories you want to display but what order).
- You can create groups and participate in discussions away from the comment threads (both privately and publicly).
- Unlike Digg (which stopped recognizing the contributions of its community members long ago), Mixx routinely awards the community with badges in a wide array of categories (not in an elitist fashion but in an appreciative fashion – from top submitter to hyperactive, enthusiast, and curmudgeon).
- You can even keep track of all the movers and shakers on the site through The Mixx Lounge.
In-Depth Features There’s also fairly well-implemented content localization, alerts that actually work and can be useful, a Facebook application, user-edited categories as well as tags, and a budding user-forum created by Mixxers for Mixxers. This forum is only moderated by other users and the Mixx staff routinely interacts with users, addresses their concerns, and takes their ideas for how Mixx should evolve next (the forum has almost 200 users, over 600 topics, almost 10,000 posts).
Founding Interest If that isn’t enough for you, the site has a company blog where Chris (the founder) writes at least once a week and responds to user emails and talks about upcoming features. Multiple users have told me that Chris, Kerry, and Kori Hill reply to users emails very promptly and address even the minutest concerns. The site also has relationships with multiple news outlets, including the LA Times and the NY Times.
There is a beautifully designed iPhone version of the site, a Twitter account that micro-blogs about the site, a robust related-content implementation that helps reduce redundancy, and may I add, the site is spearheading breaking news through social media.
Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? That’s because the site is really doing so much more than it gets credit for. Even I, who wrote a fairly unimpressed review of the site when it first launched, have rethought my take on Mixx and am looking forward to participating more on the site and better understanding this largely unappreciated audience.
Why Hasn’t Mixx Gotten More Attention? The feature implementation as well as the partnerships that the site is working on really show everything that Chris McGill and his team are bringing to social news, but all this brings us to our original question: Why is Mixx not getting the attention it deserves? To answer this question we have to look at the reasons why people participate in social news. As I outlined back in January, there are 5 reasons why people participate in social news:
- Status and reputation: Just because we want to climb to the top of the leader board and be recognized for our efforts.
- Monetary reward: Because we can make money through it. In this case the money isn’t coming from the site, rather from someone on whose behalf you’re participating.
- Self-promotion: Because we want to be in a position to push our own content and build traffic to our own site/product/service.
- Helping others: Because we can help other people out. Part of the reason why I continue to participate on Digg is because I know how much value the site can create for a content producer, and if I can help someone get closer to that goal, that’s enough for me.
- Idealism: Because we believe in the principle of socially driven news and want to be a part of the movement.
- Enjoyment: Because a particular social news site brings us new, interesting, and engaging content from niches that mainstream news outlets wouldn’t otherwise be highlighting.
Let’s add one more point to that list:
Not to marginalize the Mixx community, but a large part of it is comprised of users who were previously active at Digg and left after increasing frustration with the former site, and then found a much more welcoming home at Mixx. (For more, check out the Digg Refugees group in the Mixx forums). While this is great for Mixx as it gives the site some incredibly active participants and evangelists, it does create some problems. Incentive is an incredibly important aspect of any social news site, and right now, while there is incentive for these ex-Diggers to participate (since they get to establish themselves as Mixx early adopters and get the status and reputation), there isn’t much reason for anyone else to participate – yet. Let me explain.
Why More People Haven’t Moved to Mixx
- General submitters: As a submitter, if you have the option to submit your content to one site, you’re probably most likely to submit it to Digg (because it is the largest and most active site and you can get the most attention to your submission on that site). Even if you submit to multiple sites, Mixx is quite far down the list for some people and the exposure simply isn’t there.
- General readership: Until very recently, Mixx wasn’t breaking any news or finding exceptionally better content. The site has added a new ‘breaking news’ feature that allows them to address that concern, and when the news of Charlton Heston’s death broke, Mixx had the news five minutes later (this feature is very similar to what Propeller does) whereas it can take most sites hours to get such content enough votes and be promoted. That said, there isn’t only more content at Digg, Propeller, Reddit, and StumbleUpon, but the content is submitted to these sites more frequently and is generally fresher and more unique. Ultimately, the readership goes where the content is.
This is understandable simply because other sites have enormously large user bases compared to Mixx.
- Content producers: Again, because the community is relatively small, there is no particularly compelling reason to target Mixx – right now. The outbound traffic is almost non-existent, so your content may only be read by four to five people. That said, comments on Mixx tend to be much better than those on Digg and people try to write down constructive thoughts rather than just trying to be funny and get the comment voted up.
- Marketers: I think the one point that almost no one in the social media space understands or appreciates is the impact marketers have on social news sites. These are the people that have the most to gain (financially) from participating on these sites and therefore have not only a significant incentive to create unique, high-quality, and the most highly-targeted content for the audience (because, after all, good content is the best linkbait), but they also have a significant incentive to participate most frequently and be community members in good standing. Because the return on investment from Mixx is currently very close to 0, marketers find little value in Mixx (apart from engagement in form of comments, if the story is promoted).
I’m sure by now you have seen a theme in all four of the points made above. Many people don’t want to submit yet because the community that will see the content is too small. The readership isn’t there because there isn’t a big enough community finding and vetting the content fast enough. Content producers aren’t targeting Mixx because there isn’t enough of a community that they can convert to a readership. Marketers don’t care much for Mixx because there isn’t any ROI from the relatively small community.
As I write this, I completely understand the problem Mixx has. Their product is great and, in many ways, it is one of the best products out there. The problem is that building a community is like a chicken and an egg question. Without a community you can’t be successful, and without any kind of cachet you’re not going to have an easy time building a community.
That said, Mixx finds itself in an excellent position. They have started with a clean slate and are identified in staunch opposition to everything that is wrong with the most popular social news site right now, Digg. What defines Mixx and the future of the site is its passionate devotion to all its users and the Mixxers’ devotion to the site. For example, thanks to the community members, the Mixx feed was added both to popurls as well as FriendFeed to be aggregated for all other users.
These users take it as their personal mission to campaign for the site and spread the word about the community. I took a look at this and I believe it is precisely because of this that Mixx is more successful than all of the smaller social news communities I previously mentioned. Mixx is doing really well for the stage that they’re in. They are growing fast, the conversation is moving along very nicely, and above all, the people behind the site understand what the problems are (not only with their site but with all the other sites in the space) and are actively working on fixing those problems.
After talking to many people who actively participate on the site, I’m confident that a year from now Mixx will be a force to be reckoned with. They are embracing social news and aren’t afraid of their community (like some other social news sites). They have no issue with giving complete control to you, the user, and working for you rather than having you work for them. They have taken the principle of community to heart and they truly believe that you know what’s next better than they do. And that, I believe, is what will help them join the ranks of the big four.
All Mixx needs is for the social news space (participants, content producers, marketers, other sites in the space) to understand that the site is 6 months out of private beta and evaluate it on that basis. Yes, the short-term return on investment isn’t the highest for the community members, but based on my evaluation of the site, if things keep going the way they are along with a little help from others interested in the best social news experience (people exactly like you, the reader), Mixx will mature into one of the top social news communities out there.
Even though I am one of the most active users on Digg and StumbleUpon and work for Propeller, I don’t have an issue with this evaluation because I believe social news is not a zero sum game. We can learn from Mixx and Mixxers, improve the social news space, and make the entire social news experience much better for our audience.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.