Reddit's New 'Upvoted' Clickbait Website Will Ignore Everything That's Great About Reddit
from the the-future-of-democracy-is-solitary-confinement dept
Reddit of course has been trying to balance advertising with the website’s uncontrollable, valuable, but occasionally ugly democratic side for some time with decidedly mixed results. The company’s recent new content moderation policy raised all manner of eyebrows for its attempt to keep what makes Reddit great in place, while applying often arbitrary and inconsistent restrictions on subjectively-defined objectionable content. It’s a debate that of course will likely continue long through the point where Reddit is ultimately supplanted by some other, better method of organic Internet interaction.
If Reddit’s latest venture is any indication, the company wants that time to come sooner rather than later. The company is cooking up a new website dubbed Upvoted that will take existing popular content on Reddit and write it up as Upworthy-esque clickbait fare. Unlike Reddit however, there will be no reader interaction or commenting on the new property. Execs see this as a way to harness potential ad money lost to other websites who often simply write up stories that unfold first on Reddit:
“Upvoted is a way for Reddit to recapture some of the attention (and, ahem, traffic) that the site loses when other news organizations take stories from the site; it serves as a kind of introduction to the world of Reddit for non-users; and it acts as a testing ground for advertisers who may be hesitant to dive straight into advertising in a world moderated by unaffiliated, unpaid volunteers. Upvoted may be our first look at what the future of Reddit might hold.”
But wait: is the “future of Reddit” really about taking Reddit content, stripping away all of the best democratic aspects of the Reddit community, then shoving the entire construct into an entirely un-interactive, more traditional media mold? Like the relentless push to kill ye olde news comment section, there seems to be a bizarre shift toward taking the wonderful, bidirectional power of the Internet — and demanding it once again become a one-way medium of expression and publication without any of this nasty democratic thought stuff.
To hear Reddit tell it, it’s not gutting interactivity for the sake of obtaining more ad cash, it’s doing this out of a love of the Reddit community:
“The stuff our community creates on a daily basis blows our mind. 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.”
On one hand, you can understand exec logic here; they see the laundry list of websites mindlessly regurgitating Reddit AMAs into news stories and see that as easy money they should be cashing in on. But operating a massive democratic community and operating a news organization are not somehow magically synonymous, and there’s obviously no guarantee that the stories Upvoted posts will be heard under the din of countless other, click-bait oriented like-minded efforts. It’s also worth noting that Upvoted’s going to be heavily focused on native advertising:
“Rather it will post sponsored content paid for and approved by advertising partners?and written by the same editorial team that writes editorial posts. ?They?re going to be just as interesting as actual content,? Chang says. ?It could be a piece on Tesla, a piece on how WiFi works, no matter what it?ll be good content?and it?ll just happened to be sponsored.”
So again, your ingenious master plan is to take Reddit content, try to write it up, strip away everything that’s great about Reddit (interactivity, democracy), pepper that content with heavy advertorial content, and hope for the best? If people really think that’s the “future of Reddit,” the future of Reddit is going to be some other, better, more-interactive and open platform not-named Reddit.