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Reddit boosts news capabilities in social media turf grab

By Jennifer Saba

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Reddit, a website with a retro-'90s look and space-alien mascot that tracks everything from online news to celebrity Q&As, is going after more eyeballs, and advertising, by allowing members of its passionate community to post their own news more quickly and easily.

Reddit, majority owned by Conde Nast parent Advanced Publications, last month rolled out a new feature that lets users of the nine-year-old site post live updates, allowing them to report in real time.

The live updates allow selected users, dubbed "reporters" by Reddit, to instantly stream unlimited posts during the course of an event such as the conflict in the Ukraine, an earthquake in Los Angeles, or a game played in real time, without having to refresh the page.

The capability is still in testing mode. So far only users selected on a case-by-case basis can create a live thread. The feature has attracted attention. For example, live threads linked to "Twitch plays Pokemon," in which users of the Twitch website played an old Nintendo game, garnered 2 million page views in 30 days.

"Reddit members are doing amazing things with very minimal tools and were hitting some barriers," said Erik Martin, general manager.

Martin, who said the site is not yet profitable and declined to give specific revenue figures, added: "We want to give people a more powerful way to make updates."

Reddit's move toward enabling users to fluidly update is the latest move in a battle between social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to use news to engage users, and attract more ad dollars.

Before, Reddit users could not update in real time. The new feature is similar to how people instantly send tweets but keeps the updates together through one thread or "subreddit."

Reddit, which also gets revenue through e-commerce, has ramped up efforts of late to attract more advertisers. Next week, it plans to unveil city and country targeting capabilities that allow advertisers to address users by geographic market.

One recent ad, specific to Reddit, featured the actors Jeff Goldblum and Bill Murray, stars of the movie "The Grand Budapest Hotel," as individual threads.

Some 62 percent of Reddit users get their news through the platform while about half of all Facebook and Twitter users do the same, according to a recent report on the State of the News Media from the Pew Research Center.

"Reddit is all about the community, that is the value they brought to the site as they created it," said Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute, who has been following Reddit since it was founded.

"News has always been really important to Reddit," she said.

Reddit has more than 114 million unique visitors worldwide and has doubled its traffic in 12 months, said Martin. Facebook has more than 1 billion users and Twitter has more than 240 million.

Reddit's community of millions can quickly coalesce to unearth news as it did on developing stories such as the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, where Reddit members first found a dating profile of the accused shooter James Holmes. After the Boston marathon attack, on the other hand, Reddit members falsely identified suspects.

"People are using self-text posts and editing it to aggregate stuff about a subject," Martin said.

"We never thought people would use it to make 50 updates in an hour. All new things on Reddit is a response to something our users are doing already."

The site's users vote on threads and content meaning the hottest stories or discussions rise to the top of the "front page of the Internet." Users vote on an entire thread rather than individual live posts. The community also places a high value on one's Reddit score determined by how active one is on the site.

(Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)

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