Reddit Revamps Its Sponsored Link Platform (With Some Help From The Oatmeal)

Last fall Reddit, a very popular link sharing community, launched a new self-serve ad platform that allowed any of its users to spend a little dough to get their links prominently displayed on the site. The logic? People were always trying to game the system anyway, so Reddit figured it might as well get them to pay for it. Today, Reddit is rolling out an upgraded version of the ad platform.

The biggest addition to the ad platform, and the one that most people have been asking for, is targeting — you’ll now be able to specify which sections of Reddit you’d like your ad to appear on (there are many options, including everything from ‘funny’ to ‘cooking’). When you target a link at, say, the Science Reddit, it will appear both on that section and on the Reddit homepage for logged-in users who have subscribed to the Science section. Reddit is also using some logic to help advertisers targeting more niche Reddits get their money’s worth — if you target the ‘Knitting’ Reddit (which isn’t particularly popular), then Reddit will make sure that the small number of users who are subscribed to Knitting will see that ad on the Reddit homepage.

Another new addition gives advertisers the ability to “extend links”. As with normal links that appear on Reddit, advertisers can allow users to comment on their sponsored links, and sometimes compelling discussions get started. In the old system, these comments would be lost to the ether whenever the ad campaign ended — now advertisers will be able to run another campaign using the same sponsored link and keep the discussion alive.

Reddit’s ad system is pretty straightforward: you enter a bid for how much you’re willing to spend on ads each day, decide how long you want your campaign to run, and choose if you want to target a certain Reddit section. Reddit sums all the bids from a given day, sees what portion of that your bid makes up, and gives you the corresponding percentage of facetime at the top of the site (in other words, if I bid $20 and there was a total of $200 spent that day across all advertisers, my ad would appear 10% of the time). The only deviation from this system is for the niche Reddit targeting discussed above.  So far, Reddit’s ad platform has been getting around 20 ads per day with an average CPM of $.50-$1.00 and click-through-rates of 2-5%.

If that wasn’t easy enough to understand, Reddit has done something very smart: it recruited The Oatmeal, a cartoonist who is immensely popular on Reddit and Digg, to draw up a guide to using the ad platform (he’s responsible for the art in this post). Everyone loves the Oatmeal, so everyone on Reddit is going to read the guide, and hey, maybe some of them will buy ads.

Reddit’s sponsored link system is similar in many respects to Digg’s Digg Ads, though Digg doesn’t offer a self-serve platform. Reddit actually launched its promoted links to traditional advertisers six months before Digg launched Digg Ads — it was the self-serve version that launched late last year.