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Is Reddit Growing or Declining?
Welcome to the new era of Reddit, a familiar landscape now painted with unfamiliar hues. Long-time Redditors, brace yourselves! The digital agora that once buzzed with eclectic banter, heated debates, and heartfelt interactions is undergoing a metamorphosis. Let's embark on a deep dive into this whirlwind of change and explore what it means for the future of our beloved online sanctuary.
Reddit's API Price Increase and Resulting Protests - Did the Reddit blackout do anything?
Remember the Reddit of old? That's history now. June's API protests were not just a blip but a full-blown storm that upended the Reddit ecosystem. Reddit decided to exponentially increase the price of their API access, making it so that hundreds of apps would no longer be viable, a decision that directly impacted millions of users. As a result, for example, users would have to use the official reddit app, instead of the much better alternatives. The uproar against the API pricing was a cry from the heart of Reddit's core – its dedicated user base. Subreddits, once teeming with activity, became silent battlegrounds of resistance. This was more than a policy shift; it was a rebellion against a perceived betrayal of Reddit's foundational values.
More than 7,000 subreddits joined the protest, including some of Reddit's most popular and heavily subscribed communities such as r/funny, r/aww, r/gaming, r/science, r/ama, many moderators made their subreddits private, or found amusing ways to boycott, such as text only posts on r/videos or only pics of John Oliver were allowed on /r/pics.
Instead of making amends to moderators and communities, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman went on the attack, threatening to kick out moderators. Which seems like a strange way of thanking them for years of unpaid work moderating and growing reddit communities!
The "New" Reddit
Navigating through the current Reddit feels like stepping into a parallel universe. The energy and vibrancy that fueled legendary threads and discussions have dimmed. Overall there seems to be a decrease in engagement in even the most popular subreddits. According to Sudreddit Stats, these are the latest engagement numbers for /r/pics.
Based on a recent analysis from Ryan Broderick from Garbage Day, here are some key statistics that highlight the decline in quality engagement on Reddit:
Dominance of a Single Subreddit: Initially, the subreddit with the most posts in the top 20 was r/OddlySatisfying, with three posts. However, as of the last month reported, 10 of the top 20 posts all came from r/MadeMeSmile. This shift indicates a concentration of activity in one subreddit, suggesting a decrease in diversity and engagement across the platform.
Decrease in Average Daily Posts and Comments: Most major subreddits have experienced a significant drop in engagement, ranging between 50 and 90 percent when compared to the previous year. This drastic decrease indicates a substantial decline in user activity and interaction within these communities.
Consistency in Upvote Numbers Despite Decreased Engagement: While the number of upvotes on the most popular posts remained relatively stable, this was not a reliable indicator of engagement due to Reddit's caps on how many upvotes a post can receive.
Shift in Content Nature: Four of the top five Reddit posts being reposted TikToks indicates a change in the type of content that is gaining popularity on the platform, possibly reflecting a shift in user demographics or interests.
These statistics paint a picture of a changing Reddit, where user engagement and the diversity of active discussions have significantly decreased, particularly in the wake of the protests and changes on the platform.
Goodbye Reddit Gold
“Killing features without replacements ready, yep, sounds like Reddit to me,” - Reddit user
To make matters worse, Reddit followed up the API pricing fiasco by removing Reddit's award systems. Reddit's Gold awards system, a long-standing pillar of its community-driven ethos, is being retired. This system, where users could purchase and bestow awards like the coveted Reddit Gold, has been a hallmark of appreciation and recognition within the Reddit ecosystem. These awards weren't just digital icons; they were badges of honor, symbols of a community's esteem.
The Impact on Community Sentiment: The removal of these awards has left a void. For many, it's not just the loss of a feature but a departure from a tradition that fostered goodwill and camaraderie. The Reddit Gold, in particular, was more than just an award; it was part of Reddit's identity, a token of "thanks" that could make a user's day.
Behind the Decision: According to Reddit admin venkman01, the decision stems from a desire to streamline the awards system and address user feedback about its complexity and clutter. With over 50 different awards available, the system had become unwieldy, detracting from the content it was meant to celebrate.
Community Reaction: Not surprisingly, the reaction from Reddit's community has been mixed. Some users have expressed frustration over the removal of a beloved feature without a ready replacement. Others are apprehensive about what the new system might entail, particularly in light of Reddit's recent controversial changes, including the new API pricing.
What's Next for Reddit and Reddit Marketing?
Even though Google searches for Reddit have not diminished, the Reddit of today wrestles with its own identity. The sense of loss among its users is palpable, as they grapple with the reality of a platform that once felt like home but now feels like a distant relative.
What does this mean for Reddit Marketing?
It's no secret, Reddit ads have always been a source of revenue that was hard for the platform to scale consistently. Perhaps its due to the community's reluctance to engaging with them, especially compared to other social platforms. But why should a digital marketer invest in a platform on the heels of a string of poor leadership decisions? A platform with an angry user-base and diminishing engagement? A platform that has no issue with changing its API rules out of the blue, enraging its entire userbase at the same time, while disparaging the moderators who put in countless hours making Reddit what it is today. Investing time and resources in such a platform seems risky at the moment.
For digital marketers, this new Reddit is a labyrinth of challenges.. The key to success lies in understanding the transformed landscape, in recognizing the shifts in user behavior and sentiment. Marketers must tread carefully, aligning their strategies with the platform's evolving ethos, keeping in mind that the rules of engagement could change at any moment.
Reflections and Projections on the Future of Reddit
The road ahead is shrouded in uncertainty. Will the platform reconcile its business ambitions with the desires of its core community or is it simply too late? With their upcoming IPO in mind, they made some poor decisions to boost revenue that were not well thought out and poorly executed. The price they paid for it should be unacceptable. Because without their community, Reddit is worthless.
Ironically, one of the reasons that Reddit has grown this large is because of anther popular site's demise. In 2010, after Digg angered its user base, a major exodus happened as users jumped ship to join Reddit. But instead of learning from that mistake, Reddit's leadership seems hell-bent in repeating it.
Is Reddit doomed to go the same was as Digg? Here's a potential clue. Earlier this year Reddit's CEO Huffman praised Elon Musk's cost cutting initiatives at Twitter (X). We now know that Twitter today is worth less than half of what Elon paid for it, and year over year advertising has gone down by at least 55%. If this is a reflection of Huffman's judgement, then Reddit truly is in trouble!