Coming off a summer of upheaval, Reddit is looking to get back into the public's good graces with its first stand-alone property, a news-focused site called Upvoted.
Upvoted will look to cull news stories from Reddit threads, attempting to recapture some of the traffic other news sites get by taking stories from its popular forums. Each story on Upvoted will indicate who originally posted the story and its original Reddit thread. The Upvoted story will also be added to a special Reddit forum.
So while Upvoted will work in tandem with Reddit to get many of its stories—the site will also have podcasts and videos—it will have one decidedly un-Reddit-like feature: no comments. Upvoted is not the first website to ban comments in an effort to shield its writers from online vitriol—Vice's female-focused vertical, Broadly, which launched this summer, is also comment free.
Reddit hopes Upvoted will help it gain new readers and become more attractive to advertisers, though it won't have traditional banner ads or pop-ups. (Upvoted's primary source of revenue will be branded content and sponsored posts.) But marketers aren't exactly convinced that simply banning comments will make Upvoted a friendlier place.
"Since the majority of Upvoted content is discussed in forums on Reddit, there's nothing stopping Upvoted readers from drumming up conversation about sponsored content on Reddit," Mark Book, vp and director for Digitas Studios, told Adweek. "As we all know from AMAs and other discussion threads, group rallying can lead to positive and uplifting outcomes—or heinously backfire."
At launch, the site will share 10 to 20 stories a day, but eventually it hopes to post closer to 40. Under the leadership of former Myspace editorial director Vickie Chang, the Upvoted editorial team will find stories on Reddit, verify the details, interview the original posters, and then write articles for Upvoted.
"The stuff our community creates on a daily basis blows our mind," Upvoted's team told Wired, which first reported the story late last night. "Unfortunately, rather than telling that story, some news outlets take our users' content and repackage it as their own."
Reddit is coming off a rough couple of months, battling the perception it's a cesspool for online harassment and bigoted, hateful comments and this summer terminating the site's talent director, Victoria Taylor. Taylor's dismissal led to an online revolt by the site's users and eventually the resignation of interim CEO Ellen Pao.
"I think this is a step in the right direction, but not the end of Reddit's journey to find a brand-safe environment for marketers," said Book, who praised Upvoted's sleeker design and native placements. But he said the site doesn't take advantage of Reddit's "support at scale" mentality that helps content go viral.
"Until there's a way to channel the power of positive community outcomes and severely limit the risks of community backlash, brands will have to roll the dice with Reddit," he said. "And for some, it will be worth it."