In a post explaining why he thinks Google shuttered Google Reader, Marco Arment calls Google, Facebook, and Twitter “by far the three most important web players today” when it comes to how we discover and consume information. But a report out from Pew points to another site making an impact. Reddit — the self-described “front page of the internet,” where users can post, discuss and promote links to other sites, GIFs, and more — now sees visits from 6 percent of all adults in the U.S., with 18-29-year-old males being the biggest users of all, at 15 percent.
This is the first time that the Pew Internet Project — Pew’s ongoing research effort to map how Americans get information online — has broken out Reddit usage on its own. In its survey of 2,000+ consumers, Pew found men are twice as likely as women to be Reddit users; consumers under the age of 50 are “significantly” more likely to use reddit than those over 50; and the site is much more common among urban and suburbanites than rural dwellers. “Indeed, just 2% of internet users ages 50 and older — and 2% of rural residents — say they use the site,” Pew notes.
Pew’s attention points to a rising prominence for Reddit — where in the last year no less than President Obama has appeared in an ask-me-anything session to field questions from the public. But it’s important also to see Reddit’s position in context. Taking the most recent figures from Pew on social media services, from February 2013, Facebook is by far still the most important of comparable portals, but there are opportunities for others.
Rather than the total dominance that Google has in, say, search, Facebook has a slightly more muted role: only 67 percent of consumers say they use the social network, and some have pointed to how there appears to be signs of Facebook fatigue.
That lays the groundwork for others in the wings. Pew’s figures put Twitter usage at 16 percent of all consumers, Pinterest at 15 percent and Instagram (owned by Facebook) at another 13 percent. Reddit meanwhile is on par with Tumblr at 6 percent (and also with a skew to adults aged 18-29). Aaron Smith, a senior researcher at Pew, tells me that Pew has yet to figure out an effective way to measure Google+ — a moving target given how it’s being integrated into other Google services.
“Sites like Reddit are part of a larger digital ecosystem that is changing the process of news and information discovery,” Maeve Duggan, a co-author of the report, notes in a statement. “Content on Reddit is created, edited and shared in an informal process that is user-driven. Like all social media, it allows more direct citizen engagement in shaping the information ecology and produces cultural touchstones outside the bounds of mainstream media.”
The question is how smaller players in that larger digital ecosystem will exist longer term. Reddit, which had 37 billion pageviews in 2012, in January of this year was reported to be raising money at a $400 million valuation. The company has also been trying out alternative revenue streams like perks for premium users (Gold members) to monetize without pushing more ads onto the site.