Roxy Young, Reddit’s chief marketing and consumer experience officer, has been handling the private outreach to subreddit moderators to explain the pricing changes to the API. By Wednesday, some subreddits returned, but others such as r/NBA stayed locked. The “Star Wars” subreddit made its content public, but it limited the ability of fans to create new posts, which was still the case as of Friday morning. The “Star Trek” community limited new posts and it was pointing visitors to a new website for discussions.
The protest serves as another reminder about how Reddit can be a volatile place. The users are deeply engaged in their communities and sometimes knowledgeable, but they are also quick to organize against perceived slights. Brands that misstep on Reddit can become the target of backlashes. For instance, in February, Oatly, the oat-based dairy brand, placed a cheeky ad on Reddit and left the comments open. The ad got no upvotes, which is how users show they like a post, and it received 2,600 mostly negative comments.
The most popular forums related to brands can be a resource for marketers at those brands. The Reddit communities are comprised of the most devoted fans—and critics—of products. The communities for shows and movies are filled with binge-watchers who go to Reddit to discuss streaming TV. An extended lockdown could force fans to look for new communities either within Reddit, or outside of it.
“People want to talk about 'Star Wars,' and it is going to find an outlet in a community,” Wong said. “And we see communities regenerate, or fork, all the time, for a variety of reasons. Communities do regenerate very quickly.”
Reddit is getting ready for its second straight big year at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France, which starts on Monday. Huffman, Wong and Young will attend. Since announcing the API changes, Huffman has been a target for irate Reddit users to post about their frustrations.
Wong said that there have been misconceptions about how the API pricing will affect developers. Most apps will not have to pay anything, because they don’t meet the data thresholds, Wong said. Developers pay for how many “calls” their services make to the API.
“More than 98% of apps do not pay and will continue to access the Data API for free so long as apps are not monetized and are below our published data-usage threshold,” Reddit said on Thursday.
For high-use developers, they will pay 24 cents for every thousand calls to the API. Until now there were apps that made hundreds of millions of calls to the API a day for free, according to Reddit. At 24 cents per thousand calls, 100 million calls would cost $24,000, under the new pricing model.
Reddit is trying to develop its ad business, and there are apps that create versions of the site that don’t run ads. As of Thursday, 80% of the top 5,000 communities were open, according to Reddit. Communities were coalescing in new places, too, after popular destinations shut their doors. For instance, after the NBA championships on Monday, when fans couldn’t go to the NBA subreddit, they flooded r/DenverNuggets. That is the local forum, independent of r/NBA, devoted to the Nuggets. Other smaller NBA communities also saw more conversations.
“During a period, where things go private,” Wong said, “the feed starts to surface other communities that sometimes don’t get as much visibility, which is great for discovering.”
Some subreddits defied the protests. For instance, the r/steak community, with 511,000 members, was open for grilling pics throughout.
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CLARIFICATION: About 15% of all of the communities that serve ads on Reddit went private.