So what exactly is Reddit?
Some say Reddit is the seedy underbelly of the internet – a wretched hive of scum and villainy. A place who’s only function is to suck workplace productivity and birth memes. Others see it as one of the greatest online communities ever – a place where you can learn literally learn anything about anything, or have the Physicist Neil Degrasse Tyson drop by to chat.
I tend to fall in the latter camp – I came up on the internet when browsers were in the their infancy, and the most common way to get online was to access BBS (Bulletin Board Services) sites. These were the very earliest online communities, and Reddit is very much a descendent.
At it’s core, Reddit is a social news site. Community members post links to websites, newstories, and images on the internet – if the community finds value in the item, it will receive “upvotes” – the more upvotes an article receives, the higher it’s ranking on the page. The most coveted spot is the landing page of the site called the “frontpage” – which can garner millions of views on Reddit’s heavily trafficked site. Upvotes also earn the user “Karma” – a type of metascore that shows the Reddit community that you typically post good stuff. Conversely, stories of poor quality or items created to generate controversy and comments (called trolling) will receive downvotes and rank lower on the page. This type of self curation works amazingly well, and should be a little familiar if you have ever visited Digg.com.
Reddit is also hugely diverse in in its’ content and members can actually create their own community sites within Reddit (called subreddits) that can cater to virtually any interest or taste. Popular subreddits include TIL (Today I Learned) where users share new facts that they picked up, and AMA (ask me anything) where people with interesting occupations or celebrities will drop in and answer questions from the audience.
According to Quantcast, Reddit has an average audience size of around 22 million users per month in the US – this is a sizable audience. Interestingly enough, Reddit eschews most traditional advertising – they serve some house ads, and allow 1 promotional post per page (always clearly marked). In 2010, Reddit started to offer premium features called “Reddit Gold” which members can purchase for $29.99/year.
Over the past year, Reddit’s cachet has been growing by leaps and bounds. Steven Colbert is a self professed redditor, and the AMA subreddit has become a powerful social media and marketing tool. During the 2012 elections, President Obama did a celebrity AMA and answered questions for half an hour – during that time, Reddit saw over 200,000 visitors – a new record. Since that time, it has become common for anyone promoting something – whether it be a product, movie, or president to do an AMA. Reddit is the new digital town hall meeting.