We have a fantastic episode of Earned today, featuring Roxy Young, Chief Marketing Officer at Reddit, the popular discussion forum that’s home to thousands of digital communities, or Subreddits, both mainstream and niche. Roxy’s resume prior to Reddit is also quite impressive, with experience leading the marketing teams at Netflix, Sephora.com, Zynga, and Hipmunk.
We start the episode by hearing what’s on the horizon for Reddit, including its goal to expand beyond English-speaking geographies, before learning what drew Roxy to join Reddit back in 2017. Next, Roxy breaks down Reddit’s main revenue stream—advertising—and explains why Reddit’s varied, vibrant communities drive so much value for advertisers looking for their target audience. We then discuss examples of how brands have successfully activated communities on Reddit, as well as the challenges associated with managing open discussion forums. Roxy shares how Reddit continues to strengthen its relationship with creators—in this case, community moderators—via roadshows and feedback sessions, and we explore how Reddit has maintained its “brilliantly absurd” personality amid rapid growth. To close the show, we ask Roxy about her secret sauce for joining mega-successful companies early on, and she reveals her personal favorite Subreddits.
We’ve included a couple of highlights from the episode below, but be sure to check out the full video above, or tune into the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts!
The following interview has been lightly edited for concision.
“We have these incredibly vibrant and passionate communities where people trust what's happening.” Why Reddit’s Community-Oriented Platform Drives Value for Advertisers
Conor Begley: I actually have almost no understanding of how Reddit makes money. What are the revenue splits?
Roxy Young: So Reddit makes money through advertising. That is our primary revenue stream. The reason that we're able to do that is because we have these incredibly vibrant and passionate communities. In those communities, people trust what's happening. They're talking about brands, they're making purchase decisions. Reddit's very influential in my life. I bought a car based on what the community was saying last year on Reddit—my first electric vehicle. So Reddit is where you’ll find the people that are relevant, your target audience. It’s where they are finding community, where they are forming opinions, and where they are taking action.
So our whole business model is to provide a place for these communities to flourish and to thrive, and then we allow advertisers to tap into these communities so that they can achieve their business goals. We have so many fantastic examples of advertisers across all different categories tapping into Reddit communities so that they can achieve their business goals, whether that's more foot traffic, or more leads, or more downloads, or more subscriptions. So that's how we make money.
The reason that's valuable for advertisers is, if you think about a world in which it could potentially be a cookie-less future, and you may not be able to target every single user based on all of these very specific demographic cuts, if you know what someone is interested in, chances are you can find an audience that aligns with your product or service. I just mentioned that I bought my first electric vehicle last year, and you may not look at my demographic makeup and think that I'm the exact right audience, but I was in electric vehicle communities for over 18 months. That was a great place to reach me with a relevant message that I could take action on.
So we have all of these communities that align with people's interests, and advertisers can identify the interests that map back to their product or their service, reach them on Reddit, and see great business.
How Reddit Builds Its Own Community With Its Moderators
Conor Begley: So we're in the creator business, and I think what's interesting about Reddit and the Reddit communities is that they are creators. They're not on Instagram or YouTube or Twitter, but they're often getting just as much attention, and can be just as critical to the success of Reddit. How do you think about investing in that group from a relationship management perspective? What are some of the tactics that you use to kind of build your own community in terms of their relationship with Reddit, not just their relationship with their own community?
Roxy Young: One of the things that I think is most interesting about Reddit as it relates to creators is that on most other platforms, it's about the individual. “I'm Roxy Young, and I go on this platform to show these exciting places I'm going on vacation, and what I'm eating for dinner, and my thought-provoking things that I want to share with the world.”
Whereas on Reddit, if there is a community that is about Roxy Young (which there's not, and there's no need for one), it's usually the fan community. Many creators have fan communities on Reddit, which is really interesting, and they engage with those fan communities in different ways. So that's one aspect of how Reddit and the creator world intersect.
How do we build relationships with our quote unquote creators, which are the people who create communities, the moderators? This is something that we have been evolving since I've been at Reddit over the last six years, and there's a couple of things that we do.
The first thing is that we have these community values, and this is different than, “I work at this company and these are the values that I, as an employee, need to embrace and follow.” These are community values, which are a shared set of values with our community in terms of how we act, how we operate, and how we build products that enable them to have healthy and vibrant communities. We shared these a few years ago with our communities. We built them in partnership with some of the leaders of these communities. We've got these five values that align the communities and Reddit.
There are things like, “Keep Reddit real.” We always want to be a place where we can enable real, authentic conversation. “Privacy is a right.” We want to be really respectful of not taking more information than we need, so that people can feel comfortable sharing and not have to worry about how Reddit uses their data.
We also just reach out and say, “Hey, we're going to do a Mod roadshow and we want to visit you, wherever you're at.” A few years ago we did 12 different locations and we met moderators and talked to them on their home turf, and we asked them about the things that they need so that we can help them be more successful. As we moved into COVID, we've now taken that into a virtual world so that moderators all around the world can participate. We have a really fun team that’s focused on what we call MEOWs, which stands for Moderator Enhancing Opportunities and Wins. They're just focused on creating wins for moderators, and we make it really clear to [the moderators], here's what we're doing and here's what we're working on for you.
And then, lastly, we do make a point to give moderators access and visibility and let them know what's happening, what's going on. [Steve Huffman, CEO of Reddit] was just recently traveling and connected with moderators in London and Paris. Having that access and getting that dialogue is just a great way to let them know that we're listening, we hear them, we see them, and we want to do what we can so that they can have amazing, healthy, vibrant communities.
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