Mixx: Growing, but is it enough?

So Mixx — a Digg-like social news app — has been bragging to anyone who will listen that its traffic has doubled to a million uniques a month in May, and it is getting lots of love from its mainstream-media partners, including USA Today, Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Reuters and Slate. But is a million uniques good or bad? That depends on who you ask (or whom, if you’re going to get all grammatical on me). Marshall Kirkpatrick at Read/Write Web isn’t impressed, since that’s a lot less than the 26 million uniques that Digg gets every month. Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch seems a little more impressed, and Nick O’Neill over at the Social Times blog says that it’s nothing to sneeze at.

Nick has a point when he says that 200-per-cent growth in a single month is pretty impressive, although it’s worth noting that such growth rates aren’t unheard of when a site is coming from a small base. My ability to bench-press 350 pounds increased by 200 per cent last month as well, but that’s because I was able to do three of them instead of just one. Marshall’s point seems to be that Mixx should be seeing even more growth given some of the top-tier names that are adding Mixx links to their news stories. As the Washington Post notes, many of those connections come from Mixx founder Chris McGill’s former ties to Yahoo and USA Today (McGill has responded to Marshall’s post).

Drew Curtis, the founder of Fark, makes an interesting point in the Washington Post story: he says he doesn’t think social-news services such as Digg and Mixx are a great fit with mainstream media sites. “Most people don’t bother with them because they’re either lazy or they just don’t care,” he says. A little harsh, but pretty close to the truth, I would argue. Mixx may have no trouble attracting social-news junkies — although I find it cluttered and don’t see much in the way of community there (something Tony Hung mentions as well) — but will many of those come from the links at CNN or USA Today? I’m not so sure.

MixxMaker: Facebook meets the mix tape

Music has to be one of the most social forms of content — most of us, even if we listen to our favourite music alone, like to talk about it, tell others what we like and why. That’s why things like Last.fm and Pandora are so popular (although I can’t use Pandora because I’m Canadian and they recently blocked us Canucks for licensing reasons).

One of the ways in which people shared music back in the prehistoric pre-Web days was by making custom “mix tapes” for their friends — a theme that runs throughout the great John Cusack movie High Fidelity. So what do they do now? Some people put together lists of mp3s (I got several over the Christmas holidays) and burn CDs for their friends. But both of those approaches are kind of cumbersome.

David Gratton, the former investment banker turned Web entrepreneur behind the Vancouver-based Donat Group and Project Opus, has created a Facebook app that he hopes can serve the same kind of function as a mixed tape — a way of sharing music with friends easily, and allowing them to contribute too.

It’s called MixxMaker, and it launched this week. After adding the application, you upload some files and then share the mix and ask your friends to contribute theirs. For licensing reasons, the files are streaming only, and they can only be shared with your Facebook friends. David has a blog post describing MixxMaker here.

Update:

Just heard about another new social-music app, this one Web-based rather than on Facebook, called Fuzz.com — where you can also share playlists and digital “mixtapes.” I love the fact that when you play a mixtape, there’s an image of an actual cassette, which flips open to show the hand-lettered looking playlist inside the virtual case. Very cool. Thanks for the tip, Jon.

LA Times and Mixx: Don’t get it

So as Matt Marshall reports at VentureBeat today, the Los Angeles Times has taken a stake in Mixx — a relatively new Digg-style social-bookmarking site whose main claim to fame is that Mike Arrington recently said that people were leaving Digg to go there — and will integrate Mixx buttons into its site in the same way that the Wall Street Journal recently added Digg buttons to its news stories.

I have to admit that I don’t really get why the Times would do this (the paper has apparently bought a stake in the site as well). Don’t get me wrong — I’m in favour of having social-bookmarking tools integrated in a news site, whether it’s Digg or Mixx or Stumbleupon or del.icio.us or whatever. I think that’s a smart thing to do, because it encourages people to submit your stories to those sites, which can increase traffic and (hopefully) readership as well. But why get into bed with Mixx?

Some people — like my friend Jason at Webomatica and Marshall Kirkpatrick at Read/Write Web — like Mixx, and I will admit that the site has a nice, clean look. But the fact is that Digg is still orders of magnitude larger. If you do a Compete.com chart of the two, Mixx is a flat line. The top most-recommended stories or links on Mixx have about 20 votes, while the top stories on Digg routinely get more than 2,000 votes.

Is the LA Times betting that somehow Mixx will become the next Digg? Or is it just looking for a social-bookmarking site to cozy up to because everyone else is doing it? Or maybe the paper is interested because the company includes a former USA Today exec, a former Associated Press exec and a former Yahoo exec. Either way, I don’t see what there is to be gained by picking one social tool over the others.

Of Digg “refugees” and Mixx

Like my friends Mark Evans — who has mentioned it in comments on Rob Hyndman’s post and on TechCrunch — and Tony Hung of DJI, I am puzzled by Mike Arrington’s post on Mixx and how “Digg refugees” are making it their destination of choice. Digg refugees? I must have missed a memo somewhere. I know that there are all kinds of people who regularly get mad at Digg, but I wasn’t aware that there was a mass exodus.

I know that Mike only says that those who are dissatisfied with Digg “may” be heading to Mixx, but he sure makes it sound like a done deal. Why? Who knows. Slow news day in the blogosphere maybe? Mike says that Digg users “are showing an increasing amount of frustration with the Digg community, and many are leaving.” An increasing amount of frustration? That’s news to me too. And are many of the top Diggers really leaving? Mike mentions one: Greg Davies, who is interviewed here.

The only other evidence I can find for what Mike is saying comes from this post, which I can’t help but notice comes from a blog that claims to specialize in “social media SEO.” I’m not saying — I’m just saying. And even that one says that many of the top Diggers mentioned having left Digg, and haven’t even posted anything at Mixx. They’re just “checking it out.” Meanwhile, Mike admits that Mixx’s traffic is virtually zero compared to Digg. Why bother with the post then?