Monday, October 13, 2014

"If you win Reddit, you win the Internet"

“If you win Reddit, you win the Internet.”

So said my friend Nardwuar in an email exchange earlier this week when we were discussing how my blog traffic had shot up like a firework as a result of my post on the Pebble smart watch getting picked up the community-curated website Reddit.  

If you’re not already familiar with Reddit, here’s how trusty Wikpedia describes it:

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As far as I know you can’t ‘game’ Reddit (or if you can, it’s very difficult, and you’ll soon be busted by the community anyway). In other words you can’t buy your way onto Reddit. You only earn your way into its ranks, and once there you are either upvoted or downvoted.

I knew something was up when I saw that my blog traffic was swelling at the rate of about 10x the usual quantity. So I went into the analytics tab and noticed this:

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How the heck did I get 629 page views from Reddit, I thought? I then followed the links and ended up at aka the ‘subreddit’, or discussion group for the category of Pebble watches. Once there I clicked through to the person who posted the link to my blog, someone using the name “saltedlolly” (not surprisingly, with a name like that, they’re in the UK).

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I then emailed saltedlolly, identifying myself as the author of the blog post and asked how s/he found it. (I still have no idea if it’s Mr. Lolly or Ms/Miss Lolly btw). Lolly wrote back said s/he found it via Google alerts on the term <pebble watch> and then posted it to Reddit and also to to the (magazine reader app) Flipboard community s/he curates on the topic. I thanked saltedlolly. And then continued to watch the ticker. 

Up up up it went, until my post was voted to the #1 spot on the Pebble subreddit by the end of the day.

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The overall effect on blog traffic? I think this chart from the analytics tab says it all. From an average of maybe 100 views per day to about 800, then 400, and then a snapping back to the average number of views within a couple of days.

It was a brief sojourn at the top, but an eye-opening one. Equilibrium has been restored, with numbers back to about 100 page views per day.

Will I see any sort of long term benefit from the Reddit bump? Well, seeing that I’m not an expert on gadgets, and don't usually write about them here on the blog, I'm guessing that the people who came here to read the Pebble story will probably not subscribe or follow me on Twitter. They are gadget people and the focus of this blog is the broader topic of digital disintermediation.

And that's okay, because this blog doesn’t necessarily need to be a destination, like a magazine, newspaper, or TV channel needs to be. As long as the blog content finds its audience – through mechanisms like search, getting picked up on sites like Reddit, getting tweeted out or liked by other people – then the audience doesn’t need to know the content exists in order to go to the content. In a reversal of the broadcast model, if you’re interested in the content and if the systems are working reasonably well it can find its way to you. This is unbundled, unembedded content in action, and as far as I can see it's one of the biggest shifts taking place in media. It's not who you are, or who your write for, but, rather, the findability of content that people are interested in and the subsequent dissemination of it by ordinary people.