Flying below the radar on Reddit

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The internet can be a fickle place when it comes to success. For years your business can be gaining steam and acquiring users or customers and then suddenly, BANG! You’re MySpace. With many of these hard luck cases the fortunes of a website seems to be pure capitalism; if the public finds your service and enjoys it, than you will be in business for the foreseeable future. But that only works in a vacuum where advertising and word-of-mouth don’t exist. If the internet were a true ‘king of the hill’ meritocracy Reddit would be nearing the summit.

If you aren’t already on Reddit, it is very likely you have heard of it. Between it’s great personal heading “the front page of the internet,” it’s passionate following, and content related scandals Reddit has produced a more than modest amount of awareness. With nearly 250 million active users, Reddit is nearing Twitters size with a fraction of the organizational infrastructure and zero of marketing budget. Reddit employs less 300 people, Twitter employs more than 3,000. Twitter actively advertise on popular television shows and spends billions to stream live media, whereas Reddit barely advertises and only recently a native video player. Twitter is publicly traded and talked about across the world for the trending topics on it at any moment. Reddit has virtually the same amount of traffic although traditional peer-to-peer chat is in its infancy and not popular.

Therein lies the true difference between Reddit and its social network peers; users don’t go to reddit to share personal pictures or make peer-to-peer connections, but following topics and sharing media, ideas, and other content with virtual strangers. That “front page of the internet” moniker is more of a planted flag meant saying we’re an online newspaper, not a cafeteria. You can follow specific users like every other social network, but Reddit is much more about subscribing to areas of interest. In fact when you visit a user’s profile you won’t find a collection of personal photos, videos, or even a profile picture. Basically Reddit is all about sharing links and media to the newsfeed.

The lifeblood of reddit is users subscribing to content silos or “subreddits” where they can post content, comment on posts, and most important vote up or down posts. More like YouTube views than anything else, upvotes tell whether a post will rise in the Reddit ecosystem. As a post gains up votes it rises up a subreddit leaderboard, if it gets down votes it sinks. As those upvotes and comments die off, the website algorithm will sunset a post’s position on the leaderboard. If a post receives a incredible amount of upvotes and comments in fast order it will find itself on the “Popular” feed of hot posts, basically Reddits version of trending topics. A simple democratic system, that only broken for very infrequent advertisement.

Now another reason Reddit hasn’t been invaded by grandmothers and “influencers” is the dark underbelly to the network. Almost is traditionally an anonymous, make up your own rules forum. Back in 2014 when a multitude of female celebrities had their iCloud hacked and personal photos shared online, ground zero for that sharing was Reddit. These women were the victim of a high-profile crime and rather than immediately rejecting these posts and banning users, Reddit let the posts sit until other users reported them. Today Reddit polices it’s content much more but the iCloud blackeye lingers. Brands and celebrities don’t really want to associate with vile commenting and lascivious content.

Still with a Facebook backlash growing and online users looking to regain any level of privacy, Reddit may be the ultimate destination. While it may never grow to be a corporate nightmare of Microsoft or Apple proportion; after 13 years of keeping a low profile, Reddit already has everything in place to be the next YouTube.

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


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