What the front page of Reddit does to your traffic.
We’ve had some Reddit spikes before, but none quite like this. The second our Dave Grohl/Foo Fighters hiatus story was upvoted to the front page, views went mental: it led to our biggest one-day traffic ever, bringing an extra half a million people to the site inside 24 hours.
Obviously, the immediate thought that occurs is: how can we make this happen again? But that’s the beauty of Reddit. That’s what makes it such a beloved community: you can’t game it. Well, you can try, but if you post links to your own site the whole time, you’ll soon get found out, and banned.
Reddit traffic is similar to StumbleUpon traffic, in that it can’t be artificially stimulated. You just have to hope a Redditor posts one of your articles, and then hope the community upvotes it. It’s quite pure in that sense - it’s not algorithmic or robotic. It’s human-powered, and democratic.
Admittedly you can try and second-guess what the community will go for, but seeing as Reddit is a limitless thicket of vastly differing content strands - the front page might have a New Scientist article on string theory right next to a LOLsome photo of a surfing goat - there’s really no point even trying.
It’s been interesting, in the wake of Obama’s Q&A session on Reddit, watching the mainstream media trying to grapple with the site, trying to work out its appeal. A lot of journalists, especially, just don’t get it. It seems to break all the rules: it looks terrible, doesn’t bother with social media or SEO. It appears to not be trying very hard.
And yet it performs phenomenally well, consistently delighting its audience of 40m users.
Which I think illustrates an important point. Most users don’t care about design; they value community far more highly. And Reddit’s community is like no other. It’s forbidding to outsiders - it has its own jargon, memes and customs - and that’s precisely why members love it so much. It has enormous scale, but it also feels clubby and private.
It’s clear that Buzzfeed’s strategy is to take the community aspect of Reddit, and translate it to a ‘proper’ web environment: one that non-nerds can understand, and advertisers aren’t terrified of. Sometimes that involves stealing ideas outright. More usually they’ll take an idea, and finesse it, give it a fresh spin.
As a result, the media gets Buzzfeed in a way it doesn’t get Reddit. That’s why Buzzfeed is destined to be a far bigger, richer company. But I still don’t think it quite has the weird, cacophonous, haywire, people-power quality of Reddit. It’s a magical and mysterious thing. Like I say, you just can’t game it.