How news site Upvoted tries to harness the best of Reddit while ignoring the rest
On Tuesday, Reddit, the social website famous for its dedicated community of users – and debates over misogyny and harassment online – unveiled Upvoted, a separate site aimed at bringing Reddit's users' voices to a larger audience.
Erich Schlegel/AP Images for The Council for Biotechnology Information
Reddit – the self-proclaimed “front page of the Internet” and a frequent source for news sites hoping to harness the perspectives and stories highlighted by the site’s dedicated, sometimes quirky group of users – is launching a news site of its own.
On Tuesday, the social website unveiled Upvoted, a separate site dedicated to spotlighting content posted by the site’s users, which follows the launch of original podcasts, videos, and an Upvoted discussion page on the main Reddit site.
But with a staff of dedicated writers and editors pulling content from Reddit and no comments allowed, the company behind what Wired calls “the dark, unruly id of the Internet” appears to be going in a new direction.
The new site is intended to showcase content sourced directly from Reddit, with a prominent credit back to the user who created the original post, Alexis Ohanian, the site’s co-founder said in a blog post announcing the site. But Reddit is also positioning the site to appeal to a more general audience that might not be familiar with the site’s sometimes-byzantine inside jokes and references to previous posts.
“We're hoping to tell the whole story,” Vickie Chang, the site’s editorial director, who previously served in a similar role at Myspace, told the Washington Post. “A lot of stories don’t tell you what led up to [a viral] post, or what happened after. We’re hoping to provide more details for readers.”
The site will begin by posting 10 to 20 stories a day, with a goal to eventually post about 40 stories, Ms. Chang says, noting that despite the lack of comments, Upvoted is still committed to being driven by Reddit’s users. This includes the possibility of posting stories that criticize the site’s leadership, which is often a difficult decision for traditional media outlets.
“I don’t have any hard steadfast rules,” she told the Post. “If it’s a topic of discussion, the community is always going to be our first priority.”
Upvoted may also be an exercise in damage control, some have suggested. Reddit has become infamous for its more unsavory elements, including some Reddit forums – known as subreddits – with misogynistic and hate-filled content and reports of users harassing other users.
In July, many of the site’s volunteer moderators led a virtual mutiny against Reddit’s leadership in protest of the firing of a popular administrator who ran the site’s signature "I am a… Ask Me Anything" (IamA) interviews. The online strike shut down large parts of the site.
As controversy swirled around an attempt by the site’s leadership to revamp Reddit’s policies to ban harassment, many users grew angry at what they saw as interference in the mostly-volunteer community. The turmoil and charges of censorship forced the resignation of Reddit’s interim chief executive officer, Ellen Pao, perhaps best known for her attempts to challenge gender discrimination in Silicon Valley.
On Upvoted, stories are organized into more general categories that mirror a traditional news site, such as “science and tech,” “news,” and “perspectives.” But the site is also aimed at competing with other news sites that sometimes use what’s being discussed on Reddit as a springboard to drive web traffic to their own sites, Upvoted staff told Wired.
Despite Reddit’s reputation as an independent, sometimes unhinged community closely guarded by its users, it has had flirtations with more traditional media. The company was founded in 2005 as an upstart, user-driven social website, but had a brief period of ownership by publishing titan Conde Nast, whose parent company, Advance Publications, remains a majority shareholder.
In 2012, Erik Martin, the site’s longtime general manager, who stepped down last year, told the Newspaper Association of America that the site’s users could be a strength for more traditional journalists beyond just driving traffic.
“What’s really powerful about Reddit is it’s a bunch of people talking online,” he told the organization. “Whether about politics or local happenings, you’re able to see what’s most interesting to the community.... It’s the leading indicator of what is connecting with the online audience.”
In terms of advertising, the site is also diving into uncharted territory in an attempt to draw users who might have previously been unfamiliar with Reddit. It will eschew traditional banner ads or pop-ups in favor of sponsored posts paid for and approved by advertisers but written by Upvoted’s own editorial team, Wired reports.
Perhaps anticipating criticism that Upvoted could be seen as a sanitized or “PG” version of Reddit, Mr. Ohanian said Upvoted represented a continuation of the site’s existing user-driven approach.
“As always, we can’t do this without you and we hope this will be a new way to amplify all the unique conversations and stories of Reddit to an even larger audience, provide more depth to stories that otherwise would only last 24 hours tops on our front page,” he wrote, “and all [the] while giving you the credit you deserve.”