11 Reddit: The Conversation Starts Here

Reddit logo
Reddit logo, via Wikimedia.

What is Reddit?

Reddit is a forum-based website that was founded to create a space where communities could collaborate, share information on their lives and interests, and find other interests related to their current experience. The website itself is home to communities called subreddits.

Subreddits are separate forums hosted on the reddit website; each one centralizes on a different topic, brand, identity, or opinion. Reddit also curates a few subreddits for general and administration related topics, like News and Announcements. Users can gain all sorts of opinions, advice, and camaraderie on Reddit from personal finance and legal insight, sharing with their coworkers from Target, Starbucks, or emergency medical services, or just finding primal human entertainment like pictures of cute cats or self-posted pornographic material of all genders.

Moderators are responsible for monitoring individual subreddits under a volunteer position, and administrators handle the website-wide affairs like technical specifications, site rules, and annual site performance, as well as supervising the moderators of different communities.

Users register to the site and can subscribe to different subreddits, which allows them to see a customized feed of posts from their favorite subreddits alongside posts that are popular across reddit.

Reddit defines its mission as “[being] home to thousands of communities, endless conversation, and authentic human connection. Whether you’re into breaking news, sports, TV fan theories, or a never-ending stream of the internet’s cutest animals, there’s a community on Reddit for you” (Reddit).

Who is Reddit?

Reddit was founded in 2005 by partners Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman. Throughout the years, the two have left and then rejoined the company, currently serving as co-CEOs.

In 2006, Reddit was sold to Conde Nast, a magazine company under Advance Publications. Conde Nast/Advance Publications also own various local news outlets, and magazines including Allure, GQ, The New Yorker, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Wired. Since 2011, Reddit operates as an independent subsidiary of Advance Publications. Reddit today is the sixth most visited website in the United States, and twenty-first most visited website across the world.

Who pays for Reddit?

Reddit has only a few main funding methods: investor funding rounds, selling advertisements, premium membership options and returns on investing in other tech companies.

Investor funding rounds allow private companies to use their company’s valuation and strategic plan to solicit funding from individual investors and investment firms, ultimately boosting the valuation and gaining liquid capital. Reddit’s latest funding round, which closed in February 2019, raised $300 million from a variety of investors like Chinese firm Tencent Holdings Ltd, investment firms Sequoia Capital and Fidelity, and individuals including Snoop Dogg. Three prior funding rounds raised a combined $250 million and has over twenty major investors. Reddit’s last round of investor funding was responsible for funding “internal product and business efforts” including new video capabilities, a new desktop design, and hiring to increase their workforce from 140 to 300 at the end of 2017.

Their current market valuation is $3 billion and the last funding type was Series D. The letters used for different funding Series classifies the stage in which the corporation requesting funding is considered. Series D investments are reserved for established companies that have completed other funding rounds or proven themselves as a revenue-generator, and typically see $10+ million in funding.

Another popular type of funding is the sale of advertisement options across the site. Advertisement options on Reddit include either a sponsored post on certain subreddits or types of subreddits, or the front page. Advertisers are charged based on the page views their ads get by the thousands, plus a base fee. Other advertisement use on Reddit includes Google Adsense advertisements on the sidebar.

As the website expands its advertising platform, Reddit has targeted ad sales towards fashion, media, and automotive companies; this raised $85 to 100 million this year. Reddit only started selling structured advertising in 2015 and launched its app in early 2016, limiting the percentage of its revenue that came from advertisements. The company plans to expand its advertising platform in the future to take on Google and Facebook’s ad programs.

Smaller revenue streams include the sale of premium memberships and returns on investment in other tech companies. Reddit’s most notable investment went to Imgur in 2014 for a total of $40 million.

The sale of Reddit Premium memberships and Reddit coins enables premium features to enhance user experience and the ability to turn-off ads. Newly revamped from the old Reddit Gold system in 2018, Reddit Premium costs $5.99/mo and can either be purchased for oneself or gifted to other users for one week or one month by using reddit coins to give their comments or posts a Gold Award or Platinum Award. In 2017, Reddit Premium and coins made the site over $1 million; the site is hoping these numbers are boosted with the aforementioned redesign recently debuting.

Reddit leaders have noted that the company will not seek another common method of financing, an IPO/public offering sale, in which companies sell shares of ownership in the company in exchange for liquid capital. Reddit has never publicly shared revenue figures, but owners have stated multiple times that prior to 2018/19, the site has not been profitable and most funds cover the operating cost of the website and its staff.

What data does it collect from its users?

Reddit collect three types of data which they described as information the consumer provided, information they collect automatically, and information they gather from others.

The information they collect from the user is username, password, email, user account preferences and settings. Reddit may log information when you access and use the Services. This may include your IP address, user-agent string, browser type, operating system, referral URLs, device information (e.g., device IDs), pages visited, links clicked, the requested URL, hardware settings, and search terms.

Reddit may receive information about the consumer from other sources, including from other users and third parties, and combine that information with the other information they have about the consumer. For example, Reddit may receive demographic or interest information about the consumer from third parties, including advertisers, and combine it with Reddit’s own data using a common account identifier such as a hash of an email address or a mobile-device ID.

How does Reddit moderate its contributions?

Reddit uses a metric called karma to represent their contributions to Reddit. There are two kinds of karma: link and comment. Link karma is received when you post a link on Reddit, while comment karma is what you will receive when you post a comment. If others like your post or comment, they will give you upvotes. If others do not like the content you post, they will downvote it. Karma is measured by the total difference between all upvotes and downvotes on every link post or comment that redditors submitted.

Reddit allows its users to post various authentic contents that can either be funny, serious or offensive. However it has a basic guideline on what is prohibited or unwelcome on the platform. Reddit prohibits posting illegal content, involuntary pornography, contents that incite violence, personal information, and spam. All contents that might be banned from accessing at workplace, such as nudity, pornography, profanity must be tagged as NSFW (Not Safe For Work).

Most people follow Reddit for their personal interests, and most subreddits are considered non-news thread. However there are a few subreddits designed to update news around the world, including r/news. R/news claims to contain “real news articles, primarily but not exclusively, news relating to the United States and the rest of the World.” Having more than 18 million followers, its popularity lies among the most subscribed subreddits in the entire domain.

R/news promotes ten different rules to control the flow of articles. For examples, the first rule dictates that any news that is more than a week old is not considered “news,” to maintain the strict up-to-date nature of the page. Discussions regarding news should be kept in r/inthenews, which is another subreddit for opinion pieces.

Interestingly, news related to politics should be moved to R/politics. Therefore, this subreddit is not a suitable place for followers who look for inherently political materials.

Critiques of Reddit

While Reddit does appear to have a platform for everyone’s voice to be heard there is an underlying issue that moderators have the power to censor any subreddits that do not adhere to the views they hold. This may lead to some users having a smaller voice in their community and discourage them in the future from participating.

Currently, Reddit has moderator guidelines with vague definitions of how moderators should behave, like being “around” to answer questions and solve problems, cultivating “healthy communities”, and allowing moderators to review appeals to their own actions.

Reddit also lends itself to be an anonymous forum where violent language could be exchanged, making many of its users fearful of death threats, threats of sexual violence, defamation, etc. Currently Reddit reserves the right to ban subreddits and utilize its quarantine method to limit exposure to subreddits.

Looking towards the future Reddit has the opportunity to change how their moderators work by strengthening the non-partisan ideals of moderatorship and encourage consistent action across subreddits, Reddit should shift the shape of their Moderator Guidelines.

First, converting the guidelines to requirements or another type of document requiring explicit acceptance of the rules would create a stronger infrastructure and sense of commitment to how Reddit would like moderators to behave.

Secondly, the terms of the current moderator guidelines need to be better defined. This could be done through either modeling exceptional subreddit moderator and moderator practices, or providing their own examples of how they would like to see moderation handled. For example, in the guidance for Stable and Active Teams of Moderators, Reddit should provide:

  • appropriate frequency of participation on the subreddit,
  • reasons acceptable for extended leaves,
  • a process in which moderators are required to notify their team about extended leave,
  • activity frequency guidelines under which a mod is demoted (for example, being missing for x amount of time, being present but not handling moderator duties for y amount of time, etc.)

A solution to abuses of anonymity on Reddit could be an additional financial sanction added to subreddits designated as free speech applicable, but not recommended for the general population. The financial sanction would require the subreddit to pay, collectively, to remain in existence and be hosted. The fee could be per-subscriber or collectively as a subreddit, and could be due annually or per month. The funds from these collections could be partially donated to causes that support human rights, social welfare, and freedom of speech.

The advantage to per-subscriber is that the financial cost would limit the popularity of said subreddits and would scale in terms of subreddit volume, but imposing a community-wide funding target would allow for the temporary suspension of the subreddit if it cannot “offset” itself by a certain contribution for charity, which creates some social good. An annual collection is a more forgiving method for collection and provides a set expectation, and again, the per-month collection discourages high volumes of traffic to the subreddit and maximizes potential to collect funds for charitable causes.

Recommended Reading

Reddit Raised $200 Million in Funding and Is Now Valued at $1.8 Billion” by Kurt Wagner, Vox, July 21, 2017.

Reddit’s Co-Founders Sold the Company at Age 23 For a Fraction of the 1.8 Billion It’s Worth Today – Here’s How the Duo Got Back On Top,” Melia Robinson, Business Insider, Nov. 24, 2017.



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Clickbait, Bias, and Propaganda in Information Networks Copyright © 2019 by Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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