Reddit is rolling out new mobile ads that will mimic the look and feel of the rest of the feed.
These are the first truly native ads for Reddit on mobile, according to the company, because they have the same features as unpaid posts such as the ability to vote and comment. On Reddit, people submit posts to thousands of niche communities and votes determine what rises to the top and what should fall to the wayside.
Sponsored posts were previously available on desktop, but extent to mobile starting Monday. Brands can turn off comments and the voting on the new mobile ads if they don't want to submit their paid posts to the full scrutiny of the Reddit crowd.
The 12-year-old company has been building its ad business slowly; only in the past two years has it even had an official app for Google Android and Apple phones. Its app now accounts for 41 percent of all time spent on the platform, according to the company.
Now, Reddit says its advertising more than doubled year over year, and increased five times in the past three years. It would not disclose its actual ad revenue, so it remains hard to tell how significant it is or is not.
Still, Reddit is undoubtedly rising as a force in digital media, with about 50 million monthly visitors to desktop and mobile in the U.S., according to ComScore.
The Reddit community is known for its aversion to blatant commercialism and often give try-hard brands a hard time. There are even communities like "hail corporate" and "fellow kids" with tens of thousands of followers that exist solely to criticize marketing.
That's what makes mobile ads an important step for Reddit, because it wants to offer commercial products that can blend with the surroundings and hopefully not sour users.
"We want to make sure the ads actually enhance the user experience," says Emily Huo, Reddit's director of online sales. "We don't want ads that disrupt, so having native posts is very important to us."
The ads fit in the feed of unpaid content and—unless brands turn off that functionality—are open to reaction from users who see them, much like ads on Facebook and other social platforms.
More brands have been experimenting with marketing with Reddit. TBS and Universal Pictures recently promoted new shows and movies on the platform by hosting question-and-answer sessions with users, known as AMAs—short for ask me anything, a popular Reddit activity.
Also in the past year, Reddit developed pages for brands and publishers, similar to a Facebook profile page, where they post their own content. It was the first time Reddit allowed brands to truly post on their own behalf, through their own pages, because many communities had anti-marketing policies preventing such activity.
With the evolution of the ad platform, now posts to brand and media pages can receive some paid promotion, similar to approaches seen on other social platforms.