Growing Pains

From the August 13, 2015 edition of The Pueblo Chieftain

By Anthony Settipani

Reddit, one of the Web’s biggest and most popular online bulletin boards, reported re- cord growth for the month of July, publishing statistics that revealed 8 billion pageviews and 195 million monthly visitors. This growth, estimated at approximately nine times the site’s previous rate, follows close on the heels of Reddit’s virtual identity crisis of several months ago.

“I call these ‘passion communities,’ ” said Randy Hlavac, the CEO of Marketing Synergy Inc., a consulting firm specializing in social media marketing programs. “They’re communities where people can talk in depth about subjects they’re extremely passionate about.”

Reddit is a massive online community made up of many smaller communities called subreddits, where users known as “redditors” post content, comments and questions on topics ranging from fitness and television to politics and video games. There are almost 700,000 subreddits on the website today, according to, and each one is dedicated to one such topic. Subreddits are created and monitored by volunteers from within the community itself, called moderators.

In early June, Reddit announced a new anti-harassment policy, closing a handful of the subreddits it deemed most offensive. The most popular of these was a community called FatPeopleHate, which specialized in making fun of fat people, pulling real pictures from social media to do so. Last week, the company took measures even further, banning a number of communities organized around explicitly racist discussion.

“Because they’re so loyal to it, these communities are very offended when someone does something against the community,” Hlavac said. “When something happens that the community doesn’t think is right, their retribution is going to be very strong.

“If you went on Project Run- way and talked about how irrelevant fashion is, they’re going to talk about you for a very long time,” Hlavac offered as an ex- ample. “And not nicely.”

On June 2, hundreds of subreddits shut down in protest of Taylor’s dismissal. Redditors left the site in droves, and those who stayed called for Ellen Pao, the website’s interim CEO, to step down. On July 10 she did.

“In my eight months as reddit’s CEO, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly of reddit [sic],” Pao said in her own post on the site. “The good has been off-the-wall inspiring, and the ugly made me doubt humanity.”

Since Pao’s departure, Reddit has continued to move toward greater regulation of user-generated content, increasing the number of subreddits and forums placed under quarantine.

Hlavac said he doesn’t believe Reddit will survive as the powerhouse it once was.

“The markets in social are always in motion,” he explained. “We started with AOL, then we went to Myspace and now we’re on Facebook.”

And even Facebook, he said, is beginning to lose a major portion of its market to new sites such as WeChat.

For Reddit, many experts see no clear successor in sight. Some sites that are welcoming large numbers of former redditors are Hubski, where users post articles and discuss topics that interest them; Empeopled, which uses a bitcoin-based reward system de- signed to build a fair, democratic community; and Voat, which is trying its best to replicate the look and feel of Reddit as faith- fully as possible.

One part-time Redditor, 16-year-old M.T. from Canada, made a profile on Empeopled in July, where he says he finds the community much more agreeable.

“The Reddit community is a little more established,” he said, “so since I wasn’t there from the very beginning, I don’t know all the inside jokes and stuff. It’s kind of harsh. But the Empeopled community was a lot more inviting.”

While M.T. still returns to Reddit for information on certain topics, he said Empeopled has brought him into the community like Reddit never could.

“I post on basically every sub-topic that I find interesting,” he said. “And I comment on the ones that I post on.”

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