The social news service Reddit has grown to a truly massive size, garnering 170 million monthly visitors and 6.7 billion pages view this January, while maintaining a fairly bare-bones service. It helps elevate obscure material to front page news, but hosts virtually no content of its own, instead linking out to articles, images, and videos from around the web. Recently it has begun to venture into original content with a podcast and newsletter. Today it is going even further with the launch of its own video division. "Reddit’s mission is to connect people across the world through authentic conversations, collaboration, and community — video is an amazing storytelling medium and there’s no better wellspring of original stories than Reddit," said co-founder Alexis Ohanian.
Before we go any further it needs to be said that Stephen Greenwood and Jordan Oplinger, two veterans of The Verge video team, are launching this new effort for Reddit. They are incredibly talented dudes, and it's a testament to the kind of work they do that the duo will now craft video for the "front page of the internet."
"Something that gets me really excited is being able to work with the community. I think Reddit has the smartest, most witty community on the internet," said Greenwood. "We’ll be aiming to tell some of the best stories that have happened on the platform and because of the platform."
Reddit has begun to dabble in the dark arts of "monetization"
In the fall of last year Reddit raised $50 million and went through a number of management shakeups. Co-founder Alexis Ohanian returned as chairman, and Ellen Pao took on the role of chief executive. The company began to talk more seriously about that dreaded next step in any successful social startup's lifecycle: monetization.
Reddit has been advertising against the numerous passionate communities that flock to its forums (subreddits) for a while now, but it's tough to make big money pasting display ads and promoted posts next to a dozen other plain text links. Advertisers are also wary of winding up next to the kind of shocking and salacious material that users submit.
Who remembers "Explain it like I'm five," the video series?
By creating its own content, Reddit can better control the conversation around the marketing and also tap into more lucrative advertising formats. Video is at the top of that food chain. The company tried its hand at original programming once before, turning the popular subreddit "Explain Like I'm Five" into a series. Since then, however, its efforts have been sporadic at best.
This time Reddit will focus on its marquee brand, the AMA. "One of our first projects will be taking the authenticity and connection created by our Ask Me Anything interviews and translating that into video," the company said. After that it will look to bring stories from users and forums to life."Every community and every user has a voice on Reddit; we’re excited to use the power of video to amplify those voices," said Oplinger.
Despite its massive size, Reddit is still a fairly small company. It's kind of like the Craigslist of content in that way. Its culture impact, however, is vast, generating countless memes, scuttling the best laid corporate plans, and landing AMA interviews with the biggest names in sports, entertainment, and politics. If you've got a platform that sitting presidents want to appear on, it makes a lot of sense to have a top notch video team which can capitalize on that opportunity.