Reddit just launched it first original video series on YouTube, "Explain Like I'm Five (ELIF)." The series, an educational comedy, consists of three episodes based on one of Reddit's user created forums (subreddits) of the same name, where users (Redditors) strive to answer each other's questions on complex subjects as simply and straightforwardly as possible. "It was more inspired by the content in the thread posts than actually quoting them or using them directly," Erik Martin, Reddit's general manager, told The Verge in a phone interview. Still, Martin commended the subreddit for having the idea in the first place, writing in a post today: "Hope you enjoy this little experiment, and keep up the great work in this community."
For the new series, Reddit, which is owned by Advance Publications, hired writer-director Jared Neumark (formerly a director for College Humor's online shorts), who took a literal approach to the show, getting actors Michael Kayne and Langan Kingsley to explain everything including the conflict in Syria and Nietzsche to a classroom full of five-ish year-old kids. Each episode ends with a message directing viewers to DonorsChoose, a charity that lets people pick supplies to donate to school teachers, which Redditors have rallied around before.
The series was funded by YouTube, though Martin declined to provide a cost. Still, he says YouTube made the ideal partner for the first of what the Reddit team hopes will be a variety of new shows based off the site, some produced by the parent company and some by Redditors. "We've gotten approached by lots of people, including big networks, wanting to make shows based off Reddit content, but many ideas have just been repackaging the site's content," Martin said. "We hope that this primes the pump for more original video content fueled by Reddit, not just direct repackaging. We like the idea of going off on a different tangent on something you can only do on video."
The idea is just the latest in Reddit's ongoing quest to grow beyond its thriving, sometimes controversial niche web discussion communities, and achieve more of a mainstream, all-ages appeal. "We have a couple ideas we're investigating but nothing official quite yet," Martin said. "We might do more 'Explain Like I'm Five,' there's also some related subreddit's we're looking into: 'Cooking Like I'm Five,' might be a fun one."