Digg has sent an email to all its publisher members (ourselves being one) explaining its decision to discontinue accepting RSS submissions,  a feature it introduced  in its last big release.

The feature allowed members to automatically import RSS feeds of content essentially removing the need for Digg users to discover and manually submit stories. This step  is an attempt to give power back to its users and engage them once more; something that many felt was lost after Founder Kevin Rose’s short stint as interim CEO when most of these changes were initially implemented.

Another significant feature that Digg has reverted back to is the default view of its homepage from ‘My News’ (a personalised version of Digg) to ‘Top News’ (all of Digg’s top stories). The default change to ‘My News’ is said to have lost its publisher members a lot of traffic.

The decline of Digg’s traffic has run parallel to the increase of Reddit’s traffic. Reddit being a website that was once considered significantly smaller and not a threat.

We at TNW have noticed a significant drop of Digg referrals over the last year however recently there has been somewhat of an increase. We should note this is nothing in comparison to Digg in its prime but worth noting all the same. A ‘Top of All Stories’ story on Digg would have previously brought in 80-100k uniques whereas of late we’re seeing between 5-10k on average.

It’s very possible these changes may have just arrived in time to pull Digg out of the spiraling black hole it had entered.

Below is the email Digg sent explaining why its stopping RSS submissions in more detail:

Publishers,

We hope this message finds you well. After a bumpy second half of 2010 at Digg, we are starting to see positive signs of improvement and are optimistic about the direction Digg is headed. In January 2011, we saw double digit growth of diggs and comments, as well as an increase in unique visitors and exit clicks out to publisher sites. We’ve taken a number of concrete steps to stay better connected with the Digg community, and we are taking action to improve Digg based on our community’s feedback. One important point of feedback we’ve heard is that RSS submitted stories are hurting Digg in a number of ways, and in the next week we are going to discontinue the ability to submit content via RSS. We’d like to share the reasoning behind the decision, and let you know what you can do to improve your performance on Digg.

Put very simply, most RSS submitted content is not performing well on Digg. For many of our users, RSS submissions take the fun out of finding and submitting great content. When users try to submit a story to Digg and find that the story has already been auto-submitted via RSS, they lose interest in helping spread the story on Digg by commenting and sharing with friends. Removing a user’s desire to champion a story results in less diggs, comments, exit clicks, and ultimately a much smaller chance of making the Top News section. Our analytics reflect this point – only 4.5% of all Top News content comes from RSS submitted content (95.5% is manually submitted).

At its core, Digg is a community of passionate users who take pride in the content they submit and engage with one another in discussion and promotion of viral content. There is a perception that some publishers don’t participate in the community, use RSS submit as an “auto-pilot” tool to submit content without discretion, and do little to promote submitted content or start discussions. This is one reason why many popular publishers, despite having tens of thousands of followers, are not seeing strong referral numbers for their submissions. Some publishers have cultivated a tight following on Digg by digging and commenting on content other than their own, adding Digg buttons prominently to articles on their site and limiting the content they submit to just their best content. These publishers are seeing much more value from Digg.

Finally, the RSS submission tool has been heavily abused by spammers and has been a constant drain on our technical resources to identify and fight off spam content. The simple act of forcing a manual submission helps to combat spam and ensures that quality content appears on Digg.

So in the next week, the feature will be disabled. We wanted to give advance notice of this change and encourage you to start submitting your best content manually to Digg. You can also enable your audience to help submit and spread your content on Digg by placing Digg buttons on each story item on your site. We are confident that removing RSS submissions will help increase exit clicks to your sites, and ultimately help you receive more value from Digg.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or thoughts.