Revamping Reddit’s Digital Business
Reddit bridges connections between people from all over the world. More than 300 million people use its site monthly for information, ratings, discussion and appreciation. This massive conversation starter where “redditors,” as they’re called, can share news and content or comment is designed ”to create belonging in the world,” says YPO member and Chief Operating Officer Jen Wong , who oversees Reddit’s business strategy and growth. She joined the company in April 2018, following tenure at Time Inc. as President of Digital and COO.
Reddit has become the world’s largest network of communities. It ranks fifth among most visited websites in the United States and its users average more than 13 minutes a day, which exceeds any other site in the top 30, according to Alexa, the Amazon-owned web traffic analyzing platform. The site is made up of smaller user-organized “subreddits” that cover anything from news to video games. “People will voluntarily build these communities, moderate them, set the rules, make sure people follow the rules and encourage their growth,” says Wong. Each subreddit has its own set of rules and human moderator(s) to enforce rules and encourage discussion. Posts that receive the most up-votes rise to the top of a page, allowing users to decide what is important.
“We really are a community in the truest sense as defined as a set of people who have a common set of interests, a common objective, and who feel part of a community where their contributions are appreciated by others,” says Wong.
Those fundamental community values are ingrained throughout the company. Reddit pays attention to the tastes of redditors and consults with users before any product release. As a result of that ongoing dialogue, Reddit recently redesigned its site, giving users a choice between a new Card view that surfaces pictures to the top and a Classic view that maintains the original text-dense layout. CEO and Co-Founder Steve Huffman regularly updates users on all aspects of the business through subreddits and the popular Ask Me Anythings, or AMAs. A community team encourages moderators to provide feedback on what tools they need to grow and stimulate their communities. Since it can be difficult for newcomers to find the right community, Wong says that Reddit has launched product features to help users discover new communities and “create a pathway where more people can participate.”
“The way we look to new growth is by providing more tools and more ways to discover the conversations, original content and communities on Reddit,” says Wong.
Digital revenue growth at Reddit is driven by native advertising sales and direct-to-consumer business. “Unlike on Facebook where your identity is known but your interests are intimated, your interests are self-declared on Reddit,” says Wong. “That’s an incredible signal for advertisers that nobody else has.” Brands can start a conversation with or pose a question to get a reaction from redditors who share an interest in their product. For example, a company might ask a relevant subreddit about which image to use in a car ad or what feature to include in a new phone product. “They get the benefit of that mind-hive through advertising on Reddit,” says Wong.
Reddit Gold, a premium consumer-based membership program, also “goes to the heart of the conversation and really fosters it.” While Reddit Gold is a consumer-based revenue stream, it has been designed to provide more ways to engage with the site and grants members access to extra features to improve their experience. For USD5.99 a month, Reddit Gold members can, for example, develop a more complex reaction to a post instead of just being able to up-vote. They can turn off ads and access members-only communities. There’s even a subreddit where members can influence future Reddit Gold benefits.
“We believe in choice so what’s important to us is that users have a choice in the experience that they want,” says Wong.
Maintaining a healthy community
Facilitating choice and open discourse among more than 100,000 communities requires multiple layers of intervention. Wong, a voice of “diversity and inclusion for Reddit, says company policies are designed to “optimize for the health of our communities” and to evolve as issues arise. In general, the focus is on specific negative behaviors rather than actual speech or beliefs. Reddit’s anti-evil and trust-and-safety teams monitor the subreddits to help create a safer space for participation, enforce policies and prevent misuse of the site. While Reddit applies machine learning and AI to rout out offenders, human moderators also play a key role in maintaining the health of their own communities. Moderators have the right to take action when there are rule violations.
“Reddit is so big and it reflects humanity,” says Wong. “Humanity has mostly bright spots and then it’s got some dark spots that we have to deal with.”