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Reddit's Moves Towards Growing Up

From Fappening To Frisco

Reddit has, from the outset, been a site guided and built by its community (or at least funny pictures of cats which its community has found around the web), and this kind of bottom-up content creation has been both a boon and a curse for the self-declared ‘front page of the internet.’ A couple of recent developments have served to reinforce this image, and hopefully to overcome the unpleasant aftertaste of the site’s role in the recent Fappening scandal.

First of all, the latest news. Reddit has acquired third-party iOS app Alien Blue, generally regarded as the best and most popular way of viewing Reddit on mobile. The site has already stated that, with the exception of a logo change to bring it in line with the site’s wider aesthetics, the Alien Blue app will remain independent and lead developer Jase Morrissey will be joining the Reddit team to continue overseeing its development. The move reinforces Reddit’s commitment to mobile; it comes just a few days after they announced the release of a standalone app for their hugely popular Ask Me Anything subforum.

It’s safe to say that this move is a part of Reddit’s determination to really start monetising their service. Even with over 70 million monthly users, the site still fails to turn a profit – partly due to its reluctance to plunge into full banner advertising, although it is equally this reticence which has earned the site such a loyal user base. The $50 million boost they recently received will naturally come with the assumption that the investors will see a return at some point, and high-minded talk about the value of not polluting the user experience with intrusive advertising won’t get them any closer to this.

Reddit has already brushed up against the clash between morality and profit; the site’s popularly perceived role as ground zero of the Celebgate photo leak earned it ire across the internet, but the influx it brought allegedly earned them enough money to run their servers for a month from the new visitors alone. Around the same time it announced that it would be donating 10% of its profits to charity. As nice a gesture as this is, a company which is still several million in the red may want to keep its focus on reaching profitability rather than earning back ephemeral notions of goodwill.

All in all, these look like the actions of a company which is growing up. Reddit has always had the sense of being a slightly scrappy underdog in the crowded world of digital content distribution, lacking the big names of a Huffington Post or the relentless self-promotion of a Buzzfeed. This quiet self-focus has paid off as far as attracting users has gone, but it remains to be seen how painless further maturation will be.

The recent announcement that all Reddit staff will be required to move to central offices in San Francisco (they previously worked remotely across the country) or be made redundant has fed fears that the site will be going all Silicon Valley on us. For the foreseeable future, however, it’s safe to say that Reddit’s aim remains the bringing of pictures of pugs and Game of Thrones spoilers to the masses.


Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Reddit's Moves Towards Growing Up Reviewed by Douglas Clarke-Williams on Friday, October 17, 2014 Rating: 5
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