This article was published on July 20, 2010

Reddit Goes Freemium In Huge Social Experiment

Reddit Goes Freemium In Huge Social Experiment
Alex Wilhelm
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Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

In case you missed it, here is some back story: social news and discussion website Reddit needed more money for servers and people to run them. Their corporate overlords did not agree and would not loosen the purse. To fight against downtime, the site asked their users for donations, any donation, and called the club for people who payed ‘Reddit Gold.’

Now a week or so into the idea, and with over 9,000 people having donated, Reddit has outlined what they are going to give Reddit users in return for their money, and how they are going to move from a ‘donate anything plan’ to a ‘real business model.’ Emboldened by the pile of money on their doorstep, they are growing Gold up.

Reddit Gold will from here on out, with on caveat, cost $3.99 a month. Or if you sign up now, you can pay $29.99 for the year which works out to $2.49 a month. The good news is that the site is being generous with its early paying adopters (of which I am a part) and pro-rating their initial donation at the $2.49 a month rate, and tacking on two free months of the service for free. Too much, too little? Who knows, the numbers are guesses for now.

That aside, what do you get from Reddit for your cold hard PayPal transfer?

Ad Options

If you want, as a Reddit Gold member, you can have all the ads stricken from the site. Or not, it’s your call. You can have the ads and the sponsored links removed, or just one or the other.

According to the company, some people actually like the Reddit ads, so they did not want to turn them off for all paying people. Still, I bet 95% of Gold members do hit the ‘no more thanks’ button on ads.

Know Your Friends

If you pay, you can better sort and tag your friends on the website. This may not sound like a big deal, but if everyone you know has a name like “QQ983.#,” it can be difficult to recall what their real name is and why you are their friend on the site.

In Reddit’s words:

You can now add notes to your reddit friends. On any new friends you add from this day forward, the note will be pre-set to the URL of whatever page you came from. So if you love a submission so much that you click on the submitter’s username and hit the “+ friend” button, the link to that submission will be set as the friend note.

There’s now a column indicating how long this person has been your friend. Thanks to the way the reddit master database is organized, we’re able to show this for all your friends, going back to the beginning of time.

Userpage Sorting:

Reddit explains this one better than we could hope to, so we will let them:

Back in the olden days, reddit userpages were totally sortable. You could, for instance, look up what your most controversial submissions of the last month was, or reread your highest-rated comments of all time.

Sometime back in 2007 or so, this got to be too difficult to compute for all our users, so we “temporarily” shut off the feature. Of course, we only continued to grow, so it became a permanent change.

However, there are many things in life that are hard to do for eight million active visitors, but totally doable for a few thousand paying subscribers, and this is one of them. So starting today, the userpage of any goldmember will be sortable in all the ways that the front page is: hot, new, top, controversial, this hour, this month, etc.

What All This Means

As we have previously reported, Reddit receives massive traffic. Millions upon millions of people visit and use Reddit every month, but that just does not bring in enough revenue. If you ever wanted to dispel the notion in your mind that sheer mass is enough to make a website profitable, do it now.

Reddit is a very tight knit community, and one that is very valuable to people who enjoy intelligent niche conversations. Will their users pay? Reddit is taking nothing away from their regular users, and is giving their most dedicated users a chance to help the site, and receive some serious bonuses for it. In short, Reddit is doing freemium correctly. The question is this: will it work?

It is one thing to pay once, as a donation, but something very different to pay every month. I’m going to pay, I use Reddit far too much to let them dangle. Just how many people out there are like-minded remains to be seen. If Reddit does turn Reddit Gold into a massive success, or even a medium success, it will be quite the feather in freemium’s cap.

Time will tell.

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