Spotplex, Why it Works and Why it Doesn’t

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When Spotplex launched its beta back in February, it garnered a lot of coverage. And why shouldn’t it? Everyone loves a Digg killer, and the site seemed to have a foolproof way of calculating popularity and sharing information with other users without having to worry about organized gaming and voter fraud. Let’s take a look at how true these assertions are and now that the site is finally out of beta, if much has changed or not.
First of all, terming the site as a Digg killer is nothing but sensationalism because in many regards the site is simply very different from Digg. Unlike Digg, content is not submitted to Spotplex by the community, rather is automatically indexed by inserting Spotplex’s proprietary code within your site. The code monitors the site and every time you publish a new post it is automatically added to the service. Furthermore, the stories that get to the front-page of Spotplex aren’t the ones that readers vote for, rather are the ones that the code tells the service got the most page views on your site. So much for community-powered news aggregation and promotion.
Though as most people will agree, while this is different from Digg and in no way will make a dent in the site’s popularity, these features aren’t necessarily bad and the two sites can largely co-exist. For example, since there is no human element, its incredibly hard to game the system and indeed you have to get the page views (which in most cases will be from natural traffic) to be on the front page. At the same time, however, since its based on page views, Spotplex naturally favors bigger sites with TechCrunch leading the pack in most instances.
There are ways to ‘fix’ this, and one of the ways comes from TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington,

I’ve suggested to Spotplex that the rankings be based on a publication competing with itself – so only very popular stories on TechCrunch (compared to average TechCrunch traffic) would get to the Spotplex home page.

While it may broaden the scope of the site, this favoring of the bigger sites isn’t actually a problem because of the way Spotplex has positioned itself within the market. The site is not a socially driven news and content aggregator like Digg, neither is it an index for interesting things like BoingBoing. The site simply wants to tell you what other people read most today, in case you missed out on any of it.
So where does the site fail? Well if you’re going to incorrectly perceive the site to be something it isn’t then yes it is will fail in providing any significant competition to Digg. On the other hand if you understand what the site is supposed to do:

Spotplex provides internet users with real-time ranking of blog articles based on actual impression count. In other words, you can find what is the hot news today, this week, or this month in real time at Spotplex. This is not a list of articles people recommended or voted for, but a list of articles read most in a given timeframe.

I think the site is making significant headway.

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  • The most glaring difference I noticed was being on the frontpage of Spotplex several times returns almost zero traffic. 🙁

  • Thanks for the post. I actually had not heard of Spotplex.
    It seems like for the little guy (in terms of website traffic), this website wouldn’t work all that well unless you do get a bunch of Diggs etc. But then again, you mention this isn’t how they are marketing themselves.
    One thing I like about Digg is that with a high enough quality of post you still have a chance of making it to the front page despite a website having minimal traffic.
    At the moment, it also seems like there could be several ways to game SpotPlex. For example, buying Stumble Upon Ads etc. I wonder what kind of filters they have in place.

  • I’ve had the spotplex code on my site for a few days and will give it a week or two…haven’t seen much being done with it, though. The jury’s still out. 😉

  • I had Spotplex on my site for around 3 months and ditched it in the end because the data being reported in Spotplex bared no resemblance to the data being reported on any of my stats programs.
    A good example was when one of my posts got Stumbled and received over 1000 visitors in a day. According to Spotplex it received around 30…
    Another one of my posts was getting a lot of traffic and had a decent score in Spotplex however I couldn’t even find the post by searching for it within the specific category.
    I just found Spotplex too flaky and I couldn’t recommend it to anyone.

  • Spotplex is another automated link site that automatically submits stories from blogs carrying its badge. Stories are then ranked on the Spotplex homepage based in part on how many views the article generates (the algorithm is still being tweaked). The site’s automation and closely controlled blogroll seems has avoided the types of rigging Digg was subjected to, but it lacks the community of commentors that make these social media sites addictive.