How Reddit Used Their Redditorial Publication “Upvoted” to Attract Growth

by Emily E. Steck

How Reddit Used Their Redditorial Publication “Upvoted” to Attract Growth

Where can you find the best and worst of internet culture in one place? A place with equal parts originality, conformity, harassment, hostility, kindness, trolling and a penchant for freedom of speech above all else? You can find all of that and more on the front page of the internet, also known as  everyone’s favorite (and notorious) commenting and sharing platform known as Reddit.

Reddit, the 10th largest site on the web, boasts 9,300 active communities and 200 million+ pageviews a month. Its claim to fame in the content world is being the go-to source for publishers to crib content from their subreddit communities. Your favorite Buzzfeed listicles were aggregated on Reddit first and so on and so forth.

To get in the content game themselves, Reddit recently launched its own branded publication, Upvoted, which features a content hub, a podcast and a successful newsletter. A “Redditorial publication,” the online content hub digs into the subreddits famous for making content go viral to provide more context for the pictures, videos, infographics and text posted. It’s for Reddit by Redditors, so Upvoted understands its audience. Think of it as a candid, behind-the-scenes look into content creation.

Unlike Buzzfeed or its imitators who use a ‘h/t’ credit, Upvoted stories have a definite link back to Reddit’s original posts (and in a new subreddit known as /r/upvoted) to build a community around the site’s top hits. Redditors even receive a PM in their inboxes informing them of the move. (It’s worth noting, however, that many of the top content hits on Reddit are not owned by Redditors but grabbed from other sites, often without attribution).

The popular posts featured on Upvoted aren’t determined by Reddit’s complicated algorithm. Rather, a dozen team members—including writers, editors, a product manager and a designer separate from Reddit—sift through vast subreddits to find stories, verify and fact-check details, interview content creators and publish them to the site. Headed by Vickie Chang (u/piepiemydarling), the team posts about 20 stories a day (though it can be anywhere from a dozen to 30). Reflecting Reddit’s firm value in freedom of speech, Chang told Wired that no content is “off the table,” including content that is critical of Reddit itself, but it’s too early to say if the nascent publication will stay good on its word.

In a post-ad blocker age, Upvoted is without any banner or pop-up ads, instead replacing traditional online advertisements with sponsored posts created by the Upvoted staff and approved by brands. As Chang said to Wired, “It could be a piece on Tesla, a piece on how WiFi works,” she told Wired. “No matter what it’ll be good content—and it’ll just happened to be sponsored.”

Perhaps what’s most surprising about Upvoted is how it’s both an arm of Reddit’s machine to grow the company, but also a calculated way to fix the company’s near meltdown. Not unlike Airbnb’s magazine Pineapple, Upvoted exists in twofold: to create branded content but also to solve other brand problems.

Upvoted’s existence (and lack of comments) can be seen as a direct response to a near meltdown in the summer of 2015. Angry Redditors and moderators revolted after the firing of a beloved Reddit employee. The site’s stronger users—who treasure Reddit values like freedom of speech above all else—felt attacked and lashed with a week-long blackout that culminated in the removal of Reddit’s interim CEO. (For more on the story, check out this excellent timeline from The Verge).

In light of Reddit’s antagonist comments revolt, it isn’t too strange that Upvoted allows zero comments on its site; for that, you have to go to the /r/upvoted subreddit. (It’s also worth noting that the lack of comments on a publication’s site, however, has been common fodder for news sites in the past few years.) It’s Reddit’s version of separation of church and state to reclaim a more positive image for another one of its interests—growing advertising revenue.

Since so many publishers use Reddit as a hunting ground to repost new content on their sites, Reddit loses profit created by its community members when these posts go viral on Buzzfeed. An editorial site without the mixed bag of Redditors (from funny to hostile, is sure to appeal more to brands.

Despite being founded on controversy, Upvoted proves that branded publications serve more than one purpose. Yes, they can curate and create content for their already existing community, but they can also work to serve other branding issues. Though it’s too early to tell how successful Upvoted’s Redditorial publication will be, it’s made great strides into aligning a branded publication with its business-minded goals.

What We Can Learn from Upvoted

  • There can (and even should) be a difference between a brand and a branded publication. The audience, strategy, goals and execution may be different from one another, but they are both working toward longer goals.
  • Understanding your audience is the key to your branded publication’s success. Reddit and Upvoted have the same audience, as the content each produces a feedback loop.
  • Comment sections are optional. Reddit’s crux is its commenting and sharing platform; Upvoted does not have to uphold that. Decide if that will improve or hurt your brand.
  • Banner ads bad. Sponsored posts and branded content good.

7 Digital Publishers Who Have Recommitted to Print Publishing

By Emily E. Steck

In a marketplace where everyone is on every content channel, these digital-first publishers are committing themselves to print to stand out from the pack.

  • POLITICO Magazine

    By Emily E. Steck

    _POLITICO Magazine_ features original online reporting, weekly Friday covers and a bi-monthly print edition that is free to the public with a circulation of approximately 40,000. “If you define your publication by the platform on which you publish, you pretty quickly risk irrelevance,” said Susan Glasser, editor of _POLITICO Magazine_ to [Digiday in 2014.](http://digiday.com/publishers/digital-publishers-reviving-print-corpse/)

  • PORTER Magazine

    By Emily E. Steck

    _Net-A-Porter_'s—world's premier online luxury fashion retailer—print magazine _PORTER Magazine _is an extension of the brand's luxury fashion. Equipped with high fashion editorials, photography and shopping opportunities, the part-magazine, part-catalogue runs thick with an average of 300+ pages. With six annual issues for $25/$35 a year, it's one of the best "steals" for digital-to-print magazine prices.

  • GOOD Magazine

    By Emily E. Steck

    The journey to print is interesting for _GOOD Magazine_, the magazine for "people who give a damn." After abandoning most of its editorial roots in favor of becoming a platisher, the magazine pivoted back to editorial and then print in 2015. The quarterly magazine runs at approximately 132 pages, with a high editorial to advertisement ratio. Available by subscription for $40 per year, or $14 an issue at book retailers and online, is committed to print. "We’re structuring this incarnation of _GOOD_ to be more reliant on subscribers, first and foremost, and to a lesser extent, single copy sales. We’re upscaling the product to connect with readers in a different way where it almost fits into that bookazine category," [says Casey Caplowe, co-founder of _GOOD _to _Folio_.](http://www.foliomag.com/2015/good-goes-back-print/)

  • Pineapple

    By Emily E. Steck

    Airbnb may be the world's leading online hotel brand, but it was plagued by a branding issue for years. Mainly, that there was no connection to the physical world. Enter _Pineapple, _Airbnb's printed quarterly magazine_ _that aspires to start coffee table conversation for the curious-minded traveler. Each issue is advertisement-free, over 120 pages and costs $12. (We highlighted it [here](http://blog.quiet.ly/industry/airbnbs-pineapple-branded-publication-connects-the-online-startup-to-its-real-world-travelers/).)

  • The Pitchfork Review

    By Emily E. Steck

    Pitchfork—a music publication—launched _The Pitchfork Review _in 2014 as a 200-plus page quarterly magazine. Featuring longform journalism, photography, reviews, interviews, design and comics, the print magazine hopes to encourage readers to collect their magazine like they would a vinyl record. That explains why the price of the print magazine is on the expensive side, costing $20 an issue or $50 for a year. Consumers can also buy the magazine at select bookstores in the United States.

  • CNET Magazine

    By Emily E. Steck

    CNET—one of the oldest and largest online tech publications—launched a print quarterly magazine in late 2014 simpled entitled _CNET Magazine, _where it hopes to reach audiences offline with the latest tech journalism. "The idea from the outset was that _CNET_ did not want to be a tech insider publication. That's not what we do online. We're a consumer-focused tech site. Once you understand that's what we're trying to do in print, it becomes clear that there's not tech mainstream consumer magazine in the marketplace," said the site's co-editor in chief, Connie Guglielmo to [Mashable.](http://mashable.com/2014/11/03/cnet-quarterly-magazine/) Taking the subscription-based model—$10 for 4 issues a year via online or found in book retailers—the magazine is set to circulate 200,000 copies.

  • The Red Bulletin

    By Emily E. Steck

    _The Red Bulletin—_Red Bull's branded magazine—has carved itself a place in the men’s lifestyle market via compelling sports photography and editorials (more on that [here](http://blog.quiet.ly/industry/what-gives-red-bull-its-wings-its-branded-publication-the-red-bulletin/)). In addition to their online blogs, social channels and editorials, they publish their branded magazine for free.

Image: Reddit

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