Stop Trying To Make Sense Out Of The Reddit Saga

Why does reddit exist? How does reddit exist? Who are all of these people who participate? Who knows? They’re anonymous. How does something like reddit attract $50 million in funding? I have no idea, and a lot of the people I’ve been speaking to in tech circles over the past week don’t know, either.

It’s just…you know…reddit. It makes no sense.

A VC I spoke with yesterday told me that if a “reddit clone” with even pretty decent trjaction was brought to her as a potential investment, she would close down the meeting before it even got started. But yet, there’s reddit, raising $50 million at a $500 million valuation.

Just to get you up to speed with the latest drama from reddit land (remember, this is a fully funded company, not just a community of anonymous people who like to chat):

CEO quits
– Interim CEO brought in
– Everything’s great!
– Interim CEO changes things to make the site safer
– Community freaks out
– Company fires popular employee
– Community freaks out
Interim CEO quits
– Everything’s great!
– New CEO, who was the first CEO, re-hired and introduced by board member
– Everything’s great!
Chief engineer quits after two months, says Interim CEO was set up to fail
– ?????

And that was just the past, like, few months (mostly in the past week).

First off, how does an “interim CEO” quit? Aren’t they just in place until the new CEO is selected? In this case, Steve Huffman was brought in as reddit’s permanent CEO. Why not wait a few days and communicate that the “interim” is no longer needed and the “permanent” has been brought in?


Second, why is Sam Altman, member of the board and lead investor, bringing team news to the community. They don’t know him, probably shouldn’t know him and probably don’t care to know him. The players that are important for the community to interface with are the founders and executive team. Bringing in yet another character giving lip service to the core (trust me, it’s not as big as you think it is) community.


Reddit mostly exists, or still exists, because it competed with a site called Digg that completely imploded. How bad was that implosion? Recently, Digg’s former CEO Jay Adelson told Fast Company:

Ultimately, there was a feeling that users had lost their influence over the site. It just couldn’t survive…and I think it took one weekend for most of the user base to leave Digg and go to Reddit.

Can you imagine watching your core community — the most passionate people on your site, the one that created so much interest that you almost sold yourself to Google — disappear? Goodbye. Outta here. Cya never?

Reddit flirts with that type of revolt every week, it seems, but there doesn’t seem to be a candidate to suck up its core angry mob. Voat is one that people mention, but that site goes down anytime a thread goes over a thousand comments.

It’s obvious that there are two main layers to any site like reddit or Digg: core community members and the rest of the users. A core community member tells you that they want this bell or whistle in your app, while another user uses whatever you give them. Both can be loyal, but users are generally more passive about core issues around a site.

For example, reddit’s recent Oprah act (You’re the CEO, You’re the CEO, You’re CEO!) didn’t even affect the direction of the site. Traffic? Fine. Content on front page? Normal for reddit standards.

All is well in bizarro reddit land. Except its lead engineer quit today after just two months on the job. But that’s cool, right? Totally normal.

Its business model isn’t rocket science. The company sells ads that look like components of the site to companies who aren’t aware where their content actually sits. If you were, say, Hulu, would you pay actual dollars to be a few clicks away from a forum where people are talking about how to get away with raping a woman? Probably not.

Its former CEO “joked around” about what’s been happening at reddit, and it’s so far-fetched that it’s probably true.

I know, it’s all as weird as reddit is. Doesn’t make sense. Probably never will.