back to article Ahead of IPO, Reddit blends advertising into user posts

Ahead of its stock market debut, Reddit has said it's going to make it easier for brands to craft and run adverts that look a lot like normal user posts on the social network. Called "free-form ads," Reddit said in an announcement this week that the "all-new, completely unique ad format" is designed to improve click-through …

  1. biddibiddibiddibiddi

    So nobody gives a shit about your stuff and your ads aren't of any interest to anyone and people are tired of seeing them? Trick them into thinking they're not ads! Mislead your potential customers! Pretend that your misuse of outdated slang is cool! As long as they still have to come from an obviously corporate username, associated with nothing but obvious advertising posts, I guess it's still tolerable, but barely.

    What's the over/under on how long it takes after the IPO before Reddit actually implodes? It IS pretty massive so it will probably take quite a while, but I don't think it will be like Twitter just going on and on with an owner that is just using it as a personal vanity platform with a target demographic and not being concerned about profitability or how people perceive it.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      I assume it'll be another lifeless shell like Slashdot, where a "Most Discussed" post is now 80 comments, instead of 2,000+

      It's usually 10 comments now discussing how the post is a duplicate of one 2 days ago.

      When they're not duplicates, most of the posts are links to Ars Technica and El Reg, complete with the "summary" being the first paragraph or two of what they're linking to.

      I don't see how it's making any money.

      1. biddibiddibiddibiddi

        Haven't even heard the name Slashdot in years. Completely forgot about it.

        1. VicMortimer Silver badge

          It turned into neo-nazi trolls. The first post on every thread was "positive white nationalism" racist copypasta, and it was frequently moderated up.

          Because there was no actual moderation, for many years there was no way to get rid of that crap.

          Between them and the Luddites, everybody interested in "news for nerds" pretty much just left. At this point it's so empty that the neo-nazis are mostly gone, even the GNAA homophobic racist trolls have apparently left.

          It's still not great, but apparently the worst of the racism actually gets removed now, and it's mostly just dead.

      2. O RLY

        "I don't see how it's making any money."

        You're right, it's not and never has: https://www.cnn.com/2024/02/23/tech/reddit-ipo-filing-business-plan/index.html

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      yes, yes, and yes. But why the outrage, is it not the essence of each business, to sell you shit based on what you think (where did the thought come from) you want it to do, rather than what it can really do? And people do eat mcdonald shit, millions of them, every day, though they already know, from past experience, that it bears no resemblance to those large poster photos. It works and this is all that the investors care for. Including those that would (privately) rage about the gap between ads and facts.

    3. Michael Strorm Silver badge

      > Pretend that your misuse of outdated slang is cool!

      I haven't used Reddit much for several months now, but the "sponsored post" style ads felt very much like the epitome of "How do you do, fellow kids" in their attempt to appeal to the stereotypical Reddit demographic.

      Whether that was more obvious to me as someone who *wasn't* in that demographic is open to question, but I can't imagine the Internet-native target market not noticing they were being patronised so obviously.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Positive Engagement Only

      Because Reddit admins interact with negative engagement.

      Perhaps it's part of the trial, but negative comments about, say, advertising gambling products with fake user posts, are deleted and banned as hate speech.

      Comments critical of the products are only shadowbanned. Good times!

      What are the results of tomorrow's new advertising trial? Nobody knows. The results were stolen by hackers last week before they could be released.

  2. Walt Dismal

    in no way an ad, I'm just a random commenter

    While we're talking here about writing bug-free code in Erlang, I just want to point out when I have a rest break snack, I put delicious Smark Jelly on my biscuits. Delicious Smark Jelly, the only jelly made from exotic scrumtious organic beetle larvae.

    My post isn't an ad for delicious Smark Jelly, don't be silly. Click here for a 15% off coupon for delicious Smark Jelly. Mmmm! Like Mom used to make, until that fatal day when she was hit by a delivery van for our competitor's product, the awful Turdini's Jelly made from dead snails.

    I am not a bot and I do not hallucinate or auto insert search words like Delicious Smark to clog up the thread text. smark smark smark rhinoceros pting pting elderberries Norwegian blue

    1. biddibiddibiddibiddi

      Re: in no way an ad, I'm just a random commenter

      You forgot to make it white text on the white background.

    2. Andy Non Silver badge

      Re: in no way an ad, I'm just a random commenter

      Thank you for your unbiased review into Smark Jelly. I've just subscribed to a lifelong supply which gave me an incredible 30% off the normal price. I've opted for the crunchy version which has organic live beetles in the jelly. I'm so looking forward to trying this on toast. Thanks again for your recommendation.

    3. Paul Herber Silver badge

      Re: in no way an ad, I'm just a random commenter

      Smarmy snarky smakelijk Smarky.

    4. Atomic Duetto

      Bloody hell…

      ..now I genuinely want to try some Smark Jelly on toast!

      (I still Vegemite daily)

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: in no way an ad, I'm just a random commenter

      interesting... do you know the meaning of 'smark' in one non-default language? Coincidence is... uncanny.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: in no way an ad, I'm just a random commenter

        I had no clue, so I googled a bit.

        In English, it's apparently fan of pro wrestling who knows it's fake but likes watching anyway.

        Apparently it means "snot" in Polish.

  3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Blending

    Where the lines between a genuine heartfelt post and an ad become as blurred as the smoothies I make in my SuperBlend 3000. It's an interesting time on Reddit, isn't it? Here we are, scrolling through our feeds, thinking we're engaging with like-minded souls, only to realise we've upvoted an ad that's as disguised as a chameleon in a rainbow. But fear not, dear redditors, for not all is lost in the sea of covert commercialism.

    Just when you thought you were reading another user's passionate ode to their favourite video game, it turns out to be a cunningly crafted advert inviting you to spend, spend, spend. But here's a twist—what if I told you that amidst these masterpieces of marketing, there's a product that doesn't need to hide? A product so magnificent, so revolutionary, that it deserves its own free-form ad crafted with the care of a Michelin-star chef plating their signature dish?

    Enter the SuperBlend 3000, the blender to end all blenders. Why, you ask? Because in a world where you can't trust if the post you're engaging with is genuine or a cleverly disguised ad, the SuperBlend 3000 offers the transparency you've been craving. Literally. Its clear, durable glass jug allows you to watch as your fruits, vegetables, and even those sneaky bits of kale are transformed into a deliciously smooth concoction.

    So, as we navigate these turbulent waters of disguised advertisements, let's not forget the simple pleasures of blending a smoothie so smooth, it could easily pass for a Reddit post so engaging, it garners upvotes purely for its silky texture. The SuperBlend 3000 doesn't just blend ingredients; it blends the very fabric of what we believe an advertisement should be—honest, clear, and to the point.

    Remember, in a sea of free-form ads where you're never quite sure what's real and what's not, the SuperBlend 3000 stands as a beacon of reliability. Don't just advertise like a Redditor; blend like one too. Cheers to transparency, in both our posts and our smoothies.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Blending

      But do you care that Reddit is rushing to flush itself down it's own toilet?

      I don't. I don't even know anybody who actually uses Reddit, or anybody who's ever said "ooh, look on Reddit, there's some great content there!". Yes, it keeps turning up in search results that tell me that bicarbonate of soda removes stains from shirts, cleans burned-on pans, cures impotence, keeps steel from corroding, removes earwax, takes the smell out of shoes, prevents burglary, secures data against cyberattacks, guarantees immortality etc etc. But having an account? Actually posting stuff? Nope.

      From the garbage I see in passing, Reddit just seems like the second coming of AOL, every bit as basic and crap-filled, but without Joanna Lumley huskily announcing that I've got mail. Maybe Reddit is big in the less civilised parts of the US, where news travels slow, science and facts travel slower still, and people play banjos and use bicarb as medicinal compound (most efficacious in every case).

      1. Catkin Silver badge

        Re: Blending

        Some of the technical discussion subs are quite interesting but they inevitably turn into inane tech support questions from people that find reading challenging or as a platform to push political stances.

        The latter is particularly devastating because, surprise, people who want to discuss technical topics want to discuss said topic so their protests at not wanting to have their discussion hijacked in support of Current Thing end up being labelled as 'hate speech'. They are forced out, leaving behind idiotic activists who eventually move on to the next technical space once the previous has no new interesting content they can hijack, like locusts but somehow even more obnoxious.

        1. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Re: Blending

          When I saw posters being banned for being on-topic (e.g. posting interesting historical pictures to the interesting historical pictures subreddit as an actual example) is when I left.

        2. Roopee Silver badge

          Re: Blending

          Locusts have the advantage of being very interesting to watch close-up. We had a tank full of them in one of the biology labs at school :)

          1. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Re: Blending

            same same, the young are called hoppers, and all locusts like 60w lightbulbs :)

      2. nematoad
        Pint

        Re: Blending

        (most efficacious in every case).

        Have one on me for the "Lily the Pink" quotation.

      3. Roopee Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Blending

        Upvoted for the Joanna Lumley reference! I still use her soft, sensuous “Welcome” and “Goodbye” as my logon/off sounds :)

        Mine’s the one with an ancient AOL CD somewhere in the depths of the crumbs in the pocket...

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: Blending

          the aol cd will be in the tin full of crumbs

        2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

          Re: Blending

          Wasn't Joanna Lumley in "The New Avengers" TV series?

      4. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Blending

        I don't post or frequently browse Reddit myself, but I do find myself going there and occasionally finding some useful data. From my brief experiences, I have a few reasons why I don't stay there longer, but first, the positives. It seems like a site where people interested in a somewhat niche topic can find others who are similarly interested. This is kind of why I post on El Reg. A comment section where a lot of people don't understand technology gets kind of old when nobody is bringing up anything interesting about news related to technology, but most of the people here are knowledgeable enough to have interesting conversations on a topic I'm also interested in discussing. I have found small forums and mailing lists related to topics of particular interest to be similarly engaging, and the theory of Reddit appears to be that all those forums can exist on one site, making them easier to find and less likely to disappear because the moderator of the forum got bored, stopped paying the server bill, or even more likely just stopped doing anything including allowing any new user registrations. I have found some areas of Reddit that do appear to work like this.

        The problems that have made me a rare reader instead of a frequent contributor sound like they're getting worse. I have never been impressed by the interface of the site, and although there were other frontends, I didn't use the site enough to use them. Now, there aren't other frontends because Reddit planned to send massive bills to all developers, and the main interface is still pretty bad. Maybe there is a method to make it less annoying, so I can actually see a discussion thread in an order that lets me follow it, but I haven't used it enough to find out. The other problem is that there appears to be weird criteria about what is on topic, meaning that I've seen both things that appear irrelevant and arguments about something that looks relevant in the same place. The comments above this one make me conclude that this isn't going away. Therefore, I tend to visit Reddit only when it appears on search results where I'm looking for relatively uncommon information. If a Reddit post appears in a search where I'm looking for someone's comparison between two products, I tend to read that because it's likely to be what I asked for. If it appears in a more straightforward search, I skip it.

      5. VicMortimer Silver badge

        Re: Blending

        Huh, didn't know y'all had somebody different doing the voice.

        Elwood Edwards did it here.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Blending

          "Huh, didn't know y'all had somebody different doing the voice."

          No? It was one of the most requested changes I got from friends and family, once word got out that Lumley's dulcet vocalizations were available.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So bots or the clearly advertising posts people already see on reddit? Pretty sure there are subs that point these out all the time. "Oh look brand x,y or z did this"

  5. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    All of which found the format capable of "driving upper funnel results"

    Is that what we're calling "stuff it up your arse" sentiment these days?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: All of which found the format capable of "driving upper funnel results"

      I can recommend heartily the benefits of KY Jelly to help with just that little bit of living life to the full.

    2. ScrappyLaptop2

      Re: All of which found the format capable of "driving upper funnel results"

      Whenever I see lines like that, or another from this piece like, "Reddit claimed in its bumf about the new ad format..." I start wondering if the story itself wasn't written at least in part by AI.

    3. ChoHag Silver badge

      Re: All of which found the format capable of "driving upper funnel results"

      "Down your throat" would be more appropriate I think.

      The "funnel" is marketing jargon leaking out. The upper part of the funnel is where they shovel ads at you hoping to squeeze money out of you at the other end.

      So "upper funnel results" means "people click on the adverts"* and if they shove enough adverts, someone's going to gag on them.

      [*] It's even a form of advert itself. Nobody's going to buy a "people will click on the adverts" campaign but executives love the sound of "will drive upper funnel results".

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another source of deception

    The internet has become a source of deceptive content which I don’t miss since I have moved away from the old platforms.

    Acme Rockets, Rollerskates and Search Engines is a leader in reliable source based information. From blueprints of catapults to encyclopedic-level knowledge of Galliformes, it’s what I personally use and recommend. Give it a go!

    Wyle E Coyote

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reddit invents spam for chat forums /s

    Is that it ..

  8. Don Bannister

    LLM training includes adverts

    So they're adding adverts to the stream of consciousness that is being ingested to train an AI LLM !

    I'm sure that'll do wonders for the quality of output ....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: LLM training includes adverts

      What has consciousness got to do with Reddit?

  9. Omnipresent Bronze badge

    Reddit is cooked

    I was just taking a look at reddit's front page and it's as bad as the twit now. lmao. You are being attacked by russia, china, n korea, the saudis, rage batted by influencers and AI, and let's not forget the "news" media. It's a complete feeding frenzy. You are being influenced and tricked at every turn on the web now. The worst part is, there is still a hand full of people that are still unaware of what's going on. Luckily, most young people are catching on. Only the tiky tokers are still fully addicted and mind washed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reddit is cooked

      Dude. Pick the subs that align with you and your frontpage no longer becomes your crazy axis of evil American anti-socialist murder porn fest.

      1. biddibiddibiddibiddi

        Re: Reddit is cooked

        new.reddit.com/new is my start page shortcut to it. (Using UI Changer for Reddit extension to force it to the previous interface version and hoping the newest version will be eliminated.)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reddit is cooked

      Front page?

      Who uses the "front page" of any of the social media sites? Unless you *like* bring depressed by the state of humanity.

      Just search (using any search method, off site as well as on). for whatever interests you, bookmark the subject/person/group that looks good and just catch up with them every now and again. And check your subs/favourites notifications on anything other than the front page.

      Makes YouTube, Facebook, Reddit... as pleasant as it is possible for them to be.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ".......inviting maximum engagement from the community," .... "advertise like a Redditor."

    ".......treating its,users like shit" .... "treat Redditors like shit."

    TFTFY

  11. mostly average

    I don't use Reddit,

    But now, I'm gonna not use it harder.

  12. abend0c4 Silver badge

    Philadelphia Cream Cheese

    I think I might be slightly disappointed if I've devoted years of my life to an enterprise whose ultimate salvation would be the promotion of branded soft cheese. It's not exactly tombstone material.

    1. Andy Non Silver badge

      Re: Philadelphia Cream Cheese

      "It's not exactly tombstone material."

      Enough of it clogging your arteries and it might be.

  13. Korev Silver badge
    Megaphone

    "The brand leveraged our free-form ad format to showcase the refrigerator staple's versatility, with product details and recipe inspiration," Reddit said. "This effectively prompted the Reddit community to 'get a big list going and bond over' their shared love of cream cheese."

    Sometimes I think that Bill Hicks has the right view on marketing

    1. Patrician

      'get a big list going and bond over' their shared love of cream cheese."

      It should be noted that if redditors did indeed "bond over a shared love of cream cheese" the advertising has failed; it's only people that already buy and eat the product that are responding to the ad, so no new sales.

  14. david1024

    Spam spam spam spam spam.

    /Me goes off to create a robot that says "stay off my lawn"

  15. An_Old_Dog Silver badge
    Joke

    Refrigerator Staples

    "The brand leveraged our free-form ad format to showcase the refrigerator staple's versatility, with product details and recipe inspiration," Reddit said.

    # plaintext passwords in code are bad; don't use them.

    PASSWORD="refrigerator*staple*battery*horse"

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    by making adverts look as much like user posts as possible

    the ultimate goal, fool all the users, all the time. There's no escape.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: by making adverts look as much like user posts as possible

      I think someone at reddit saw xkcd.com\810, and failed to get the joke...

  17. Martin Summers

    So it has managed to keep going for 20 years not making a profit, and that's all of a sudden a problem? Presumably people and bills got paid in that time otherwise it wouldn't still be here? Is that how a company is actually meant to be run, for the benefit of the people who work for it, to get paid for a living?

    Ah yes the shareholders, the ones that will now count the most. Because where there's profit to be had there's shareholders waiting to drive the business to even more growth so someone can get obscenely wealthy, just because. And thus the original aim of Reddit was lost, like many before it. In the name of greed. As per usual.

    1. CatWithChainsaw

      I think it's due in part to the era of free money ending. Promises of perpetual, exponential growth in markets and websites that long since saturated is no longer enough to keep shareholders happy, they want returns, and they want returns that get greater every quarter.

      After stealth ads, I imagine more features will move to Reddit Premium until finally the whole site is paywalled.

  18. andrewj

    r/enshittification

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