I had to do a double take this morning when I read about the plight of reddit, one of the original social news websites. Apparently things aren’t so good over at the Internet property. It’sso bad that they have started to ask for donations to keep the site afloat. I bet you that their owner, Conde Nast, must be so proud.
Making money online isn’t always easy, especially when you run an ad-supported business. And that’s not just true for the small fries; it can be even more true for popular, heavily-trafficked sites.
That’s the case for reddit, the popular user-generated news site. It was purchased by Conde Nast Digital in 2006, but a blog post last Friday indicates that all is not well at reddit.
We’ve been kinda bummed at reddit these days. It seems like every week something comes up that slows performance to a crawl or even leads to a total site outage. And we almost never get a chance to release new features anymore.
Our four engineers — KeyserSosa, jedberg, ketralnis, and myself — are working full time (plus many evenings and weekends and sometimes even the middle of the night) just to keep things going. Perhaps we’re doing it wrong: there might be ways to optimize our code, or technologies that could allow us to work more efficiently, but we’re too busy to investigate these things, or to migrate to the ones that look promising. It becomes a vicious cycle.
The bottom line is, we need more resources.
Whenever this topic comes up on the site, someone always posts a comment about how reddit is owned by Conde Nast, a billion-dollar corporation like Time Warner or Cobra, and how if they wanted to they could hire a thousand engineers and purchase a million dollars worth of heavy iron. But here’s the thing: corporations aren’t run like charities. They keep separate budgets for each business line, and usually allocate resources proportionate to revenue. And reddit’s revenue isn’t great.
Essentially the rest of the post is painting a grim picture of where reddit stands and it ain’t pretty. So how do they intend to solve this ‘revenue isn’t great’ problem? By asking their users to become reddit ‘subscribers’. That would make sense in a world where it is understood that in order to survive any company needs to generate revenue.
Apparently the folks at reddit live in the ‘free Internet’ alternate universe thus this apologetic request for their visitors’ subscription help moving forward.
We’ve been trying to get this out the door for some time, but it always got held up because we wanted to write some cool subscriber-only features first, like the ability to sort your profile page by score, or have more than 50 reddit communities on your front page, or a button you could press to smack someone in the face over the Internet. We now realize that we’re going to have to put the cart before the horse: in exchange for subscribing to reddit, we can right now only offer you our undying gratitude and an optional trophy on your userpage. It’s kind of a lame offer, we know, but if the program is a success, we’ll be able to give subscribers better incentives in the coming months. We invite you to post ideas in the comments section; in the meantime, I suppose it’s more or less a pledge drive.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t wrap up any better.
As long as we’re going to be taking suggestions and money from you guys, we might as well also take the name you came up with: this new program will be called “reddit gold”.
How much would you pay for this wonderful opportunity? $10? $30? $∞?
No, seriously, how much would you pay? We have no idea what we should be charging. So for now, we’re just going to let you pay whatever you want.
Geesh, this is just, well, pathetic. I don’t wish any ill will on reddit but I do wish a few classes in business practice and common sense. Can you imagine how the folks at Conde Nast are looking at this plea from one of their business units? Business ain’t so great for Conde Nast overall but I don’t foresee a pledge drive anytime soon to help the bottom line.
Am I being too hard on this or does this really appear to be one of the weirdest moves in recent history by a site that has some real power in the online space?
What’s your take? Oh and by the way, if you are looking to help out reddit don’t forget ol’ Frank here …….. ;-). (Hey, I had to ask.)