'Reddit Live' tool pushes everyone's favorite news sharing site in a bold new direction (exclusive interview)

Reddit Alien
Image Credit: Cderekw, deviantART

Community news sharing site Reddit is known for its simple user interface and the easy with which people can submit something for the community to judge and discuss. But that doesn’t mean the site isn’t willing to forge new ground, as evident with its latest feature addition.

A week after launching to the public, Reddit’s general manager Erik Martin tells VentureBeat the company’s new liveblogging tool Reddit Live is seeing plenty of traction.

Reddit Live is the news-sharing site’s solution for managing the specific type of reader submissions that require constant, continuous updates. And while it was initially prompted as a tool to help prevent the spread of misinformation via a regular Reddit submission, the Reddit team is now seeing people use it for multiple scenarios.

“We think of it as a tool to help streamline a chaotic torrent of information,” Martin said in an interview with VentureBeat. “Breaking news is a great example of such a situation, but so is a sporting event, a charity event, or even something like PAX tickets going on sale.

“We’re also already seeing people using it like a chat room or as group commentary during a TV show.”

Reddit told VentureBeat a day after launching, readers created 3,579 Reddit Live threads, with 66 of those seeing at least 100 concurrent viewers at their peak. The company also revealed that it’s seen a total of 155,907 updates posted from all threads, with 92 of those having 100 or more updates each.

“The most updated threads are almost all TPP related; with ‘Twitch Plays Pokémon Black 2 Updater’ being the [highest] at 23,547 updates,” Martin said. “The /r/UkrainianConflict thread just broke 10,000 updates in it so far during its five months of existence.”

We’ve included an interview with Martin below that covers the future plans for Reddit Live, how users are responding to it, and how the team sees the tool evolving in the future.

Erik Martin

Above: Reddit general manager Erik Martin enjoying a smoke after being named one of Time’s most influential people.

Image Credit: Time Magazine

VentureBeat: Why launch a tool like this that encourages people to live-update, and how is the Reddit Live tool equip to deal with misinformation? Does creating a tool specifically for live updates take care of some of the problems Reddit has observed with past live update posts?

Erik Martin: We saw huge demand from both readers and posters for all kinds of constantly updated text posts, whether breaking news or coverage of sporting events. We are just providing a more robust way for users as well as professional journalists to manage this type of dynamic content. We have mechanisms for readers to flag Reddit live streams for a variety of reasons.

VentureBeat: What’s the long-term plan for Reddit Live? I know it operates outside of the regular Reddit site, in some respects, but do you guys see it being a core part of the service if it proves popular?

Martin: It’s way too early to tell. When we first added the ability to make text posts we had no idea they’d quickly become over one-third of all the “links” on the site. Similarly, I don’t think anyone anticipated that a really simple and reliable image hosting service [Imgur] coming along would so dramatically increase the popularity of image-based subreddits. but it wouldn’t surprise me if certain elements of Reddit live make their way into the existing Reddit toolset.

VentureBeat: What other types of Reddit submissions has the team observed as distinct, and what’s the possibility that the team will build new tools for other distinct submission types?

Martin: We think of it as a tool to help streamline a chaotic torrent of information. Breaking news is a great example of such a situation, but so is a sporting event, a charity event, or even something like PAX tickets going on sale. We’re also already seeing people using it like a chat room or as group commentary during a TV show.

VentureBeat: In terms of the business, Reddit has done a lot over the last year to build its sales division and increase efforts around gift exchanges/meetups. How do you plan on monetizing Reddit Live content/submissions in a way that’s tasteful and generally acceptable to the Reddit community as is done with native/self-serve ads?

Martin: It’s still early but we have already seen Reddit live used in our sponsored headline ads. Bill Gates used it to highlight a variety of content to raise awareness in an advertising campaign he created around Malaria during Mosquito Week: http://www.redditmedia.com/mediaembed/2489wb

VentureBeat: What kind of traction — number of submissions, breakdown of topics being discussed, etc. — has Reddit Live seen while in beta over the last few months? Today? Is there anything you’ve observed thus far that’s been surprising to you or the team?

Martin: It was surprising that people used Reddit live in the beta in such an ongoing and continuous manner. For example, the Ukraine conflict live stream has been going on for four months and has never really dropped below 200 users at any given time. In hindsight, it makes sense, but we didn’t envision that a single Reddit live stream would be used continuously for that long.

More information:

reddit was founded by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian in 2005, and is an online community where users submit, vote, and comment on content, stories, and discussions. The hottest stories as determined by the community through discussio... read more »

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