Reddit, the social aggregator countless publishers already crib news from, is starting its own news site. The new venture is called Upvoted, and when it launches on Tuesday, will dig out interesting comments, pictures, videos, and other posts from Reddit itself, providing more context on their background through interviews with the Reddit users behind the stories. But while Reddit will be the source for Upvoted's posts, the new site won't copy its structure — comments aren't enabled, and there's no way to actually upvote (or downvote) Upvoted's stories.
Users can't comment on Upvoted's stories
Upvoted is to be maintained by a dedicated editorial team of about ten people, responsible for finding stories on Reddit, verifying details, interviewing their posters, and packaging the details up for easy reading. It's a way to pull together some of Reddit's best stories — many of which currently have to be pieced together from multiple posts, require knowledge of arcane Reddit folklore, or are simply hidden in less populated subreddits — for a new audience, but it's also a way for the company to capitalize on the demonstrably shareable content its users produce that has traditionally been picked up by other news publishers and aggregators to get their own clicks.
"The stuff our community creates on a daily basis blows our mind," Upvoted's editorial team told Wired. "Unfortunately, rather than telling that story, some news outlets take our users' content and repackage it as their own. They don't tell the backstory of our communities. We think our users' stories need to be told, but with them at the center of it." That team, headed by Vickie Chang — previously editorial director at MySpace — says that all of Upvoted's stories will have some distinct link to Reddit, and will both link back to the original post, and to a new /r/upvoted subreddit for users to discuss the topic. Chang's team plans to post around 20 stories a day at the start of the project, but hopes to up that to 40 eventually.
Many of Reddit's top posts are stolen from other sources
But to produce that number of posts per day from Reddit will be tricky without almost superhuman knowledge of Reddit's history, userbase, and vast array of subreddits. Much of Reddit's most popular content is either reposts — having previously appeared on the site years, months, weeks, or even days ago — or stolen from its source. Webcomics, for example, frequently top the /r/funny subreddit without direct attribution to their creators. In some cases, watermarks and other identifying features are stripped off entirely, or articles are mined for their pictures without any link to the stories that inspired them. How Upvoted approaches these kinds of popular posts is yet to be seen. Also unclear is how the site will report on popular posts critical of Reddit itself, but Chang tells Wired that nothing is "off the table" and that as director, she doesn't have any "hard steadfast rules" on what Upvoted can report on.
Not all of Upvoted's stories will be directed by the editorial team, however. The new site won't have banner ads or pop-ups, but will instead feature sponsored posts, written about advertisers by the same team that writes its standard stories. The write-ups will be paid for and approved by the company behind the sponsorship deal, but Chang says these ads will be just as good as normal posts. "It could be a piece on Tesla, a piece on how WiFi works," she told Wired. "No matter what it'll be good content—and it'll just happened to be sponsored."
Reddit users rebelled in July
Reddit's new project comes a few months after the site's users staged a very public rebellion against its management. Ostensibly catalyzed by the firing of the site's popular director of communications, Victoria Taylor, many users took the chance to rail against then-CEO Ellen Pao in early July. A number of the site's most prominent moderators also criticized Reddit's management team, citing lack of communication and a dearth of mod tools as major issues, and locking major subreddits in protest.
Management eventually brokered peace with its angry users, but has yet to deliver many of the changes it promised as part of the deal. Marty Weiner, Reddit's CTO, offered up a roadmap for the site's technical refurbishment last month, but said that most of the engineering team's key goals might not be completed until the first quarter of 2016. More pressing may be the process of rehabbing Reddit's reputation for both the kind of investors Reddit wants to woo, and outsiders, who might be scared off by its notoriety as a haven for harassment, racism, and weird memes. Upvoted could act as a front for the site, securing it both new users and new sources of ad revenue with the kind of funny, warm, and human stories that news sites already pluck from its comments.