Can Reddit Be a Friend to Brands and Publishers?

Content marketing articles typically don’t go viral. But in 2016, one of ours did. Our editorial staff and design team collaborated to imagine what thirteen classic literary works would sound like with clickbait headlines. It was a spoof on the Upworthy-style titles that had taken over the media. Someone found the article and posted it on Reddit. That day, it received over 200,000 pageviews.

Since then, we’ve tried to develop a regular Reddit presence here and there, with inconsistent success. Some posts drum up conversation and upvotes; most do not. Reddit differs from the other big distribution channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You won’t get anywhere just posting links with a line of copy. Recently, however, Reddit has implemented a new strategy to improve its relationship with publishers. Updates include a “News” tab, profile pages where publisher accounts can post their own content and AMAs, and a native video uploader. Additionally, Time Magazine struck a deal last year to have its editorial staff work with Reddit’s audience team to incorporate user-generated content into more stories.

Could this be a new era for the brands and media outlets that have largely ignored Reddit in the past? I spoke to Alex Riccomini, the company’s director of business development and media, to find out more about the recent changes.

What prompted the new features that bring publishers closer to your users?

Reddit has always been a place for people to find and engage with news and content they care about. We have more than 330 million monthly users, and many of them come to Reddit specifically for news content. According to a Pew Research study, roughly 70 percent of Reddit users come to the site for news. Publishers have a lot to gain from developing their audience on Reddit.

For some time now, we’ve been partnering with publishers and news organizations, and building products and tools to support news consumption and engagement. Starting with embeds in 2015 and extending to other products like our CrowdTangle/Taboola integrations and editorial partnerships with Time in 2017, our work with publishers speaks to an organic evolution of an already existing user and publisher behavior.

The goal is two-fold—to create more opportunities for publishers to engage with audiences that are interested in their content, and to give Redditors more of the content they enjoy discussing on platform. It’s a win-win.

What feedback have you gotten from both users and publishers?

When publishers engage on Reddit while being mindful of its unique culture—The Washington Post, National Geographic, Bleacher Report, and Dallas Morning News are some great examples—the reception and feedback from redditors has been incredibly positive. Since many users come to the site solely to find and discuss news and journalistic content, that presents a fairly obvious value for publishers.

The rule of thumb for publishers on Reddit is participation over promotion.

That said, Reddit is a complex ecosystem that takes time to learn and understand, so we’re continuing to invest resources in helping educate and support publishers in how to be successful on platform.

Reddit has had a reputation for a while as being “anti-publisher.” Do you expect to see that perception change now?

Reddit, as both a company and network of communities, has always loved publishers and their content, but it’s only been in the past couple of years that we’ve doubled down on developing those relationships and creating open lines of bilateral communication. However, redditors are notoriously skeptical of sources (and users) who come across as too self-promotional. There’s a balance of promotion and engagement that publishers must consider when building Reddit into their engagement strategy.

What does Reddit define as “promotional” content? I know that’s gotten publishers flagged in the past, so I’m curious as to how the restrictions have changed.

The rule of thumb for publishers on Reddit is participation over promotion. It’s a place for conversation. Where publishers may run into trouble is when they simply use Reddit as a platform for distributing their own work as opposed to engaging in conversation about it or other relevant topics. Different subreddits also have different rules. For example, some don’t allow links at all. It’s important for publishers to be thoughtful of their audience and spend time understanding the community cultures in which they’re engaging.

What do you hope the future of Reddit/publisher relationships will look like?

We see huge potential for publishers to create a natural flywheel for engagement on Reddit. When publishers produce content that gains traction on platform, this drives conversation, which then enables them to produce even more compelling content.

A great example of this is Time’s AMA on the recently lifted Saudi ban on female drivers, where the questions they received led them to create a follow-up editorial recapping highlights and insights from that conversation. Content creation from Reddit can also transcend formats, like with Endless Thread, our podcast collaboration with WBUR, where each episode delves into a subreddit community and explores their compelling stories. These are just a couple of examples of the potential for our relationships with publishers

Our goal is to collaborate with publishers to strengthen that meaningful and engaging interplay between platform, publisher, and audience.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.

Image by Devin Avery / Unsplash

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