The Time 100 poll is studded with world leaders, celebrities—and Erik Martin. Erik who?
The 33-year-old, who placed second only to Anonymous in the poll, doesn't even have a Wikipedia page to his name. Though he does not yet seem to have a space in the annals of pop culture, Martin is Reddit’s general manager. That makes him the highest-profile person on the site. And to millions of loyal redditors, he’s more worthy of the vote than the likes of Ron Paul, Jeremy Lin, or Lady Gaga.
“I’m definitely not a celebrity like a lot of people on there,” he told the Daily Dot. “It’s more fun to vote for somebody that no one’s ever heard of than it is to vote for somebody who is a household name.”
Martin’s sudden fame has got plenty of people wondering about the man who runs Reddit. To sate our curiosity, the Daily Dot asked Martin a few questions about himself. Here’s what we found out:
Martin’s involvement with Reddit actually predates it. A filmmaker, he was interested in creating a documentary on Y Combinator, a then-new site that served as an incubator for startups. The documentary didn’t work out, but Martin still became a fan of one of the first startups Y Combinator incubated: Reddit.
“When they announced the first Y Combinator [funding] round, Reddit was in that first class,” he said. “I took a personal interest, very quickly became hooked, and then became a full blown addict.”
Martin became a redditor in 2005, the same year Reddit was founded. He was interested in the site’s potential for sharing news and interviews. Since Martin was working for an independent film company in New York City at the time, he had some ties to film directors and celebrities. He decided to get in touch with Reddit and pitch a series of text interviews on the site.
“At the time, Reddit was not big, and it was not hard to get in touch with Alexis [Ohanian, Reddit’s cofounder],” he said.
Ohanian was interested, but the series didn’t work out. However, Martin’s connection with Reddit led him to serve as the startup’s liaison on a PBS station pilot that involved Reddit and current affairs.
The pilot never saw the light of day, but not was all lost. The series got his foot in the door at Reddit and netted him a job offer. Incidentally, they also eventually lead to Reddit’s popular video IAMA series.
“During this time I got to know Alexis really well,” he said. “He invited me to be Reddit’s community manager in September 2008.”
Martin started working part-time, but quickly moved to full time and beyond. He often works nights and weekends, and said checking Reddit is the last thing he does before going to bed.
“It’s a 24-7 job,” he said. “It’s not grueling, I’m not walking around bleary-eyed all the time, but I’m always around.”
In fact, he’s around at such odd hours, some might not know Martin works at Reddit’s office in San Francisco, where the site is headquartered.
“When I moved from New York, my body didn’t switch time zones for some reason,” he said. “I’m still not a morning person but I do get up earlier.”
Martin told us his current favorite subreddits are r/science, r/askhistorians, and the delightfully Dadaist r/fifthworldproblems, though his favorites change week to week. Martin said he never gets bored of Reddit; he simply finds a new subreddit when an old one tires him out.
Today, as both of Reddit’s cofounders have moved on from daily Reddit duties, Martin is the closest thing Reddit has to an original employee. His respected position gives him a platform on which he could potentially direct policy on the site.
That doesn’t mean Martin controls the Reddit hivemind; nor does he want to.
Instead, Martin says he uses his position to encourage redditors to do good. He oversaw the purchase of Reddit Gifts, responsible for arguably the world’s largest gift exchanges. He continues to take to the Reddit blog to commend subreddits for their fundraising efforts. Most recently, he encouraged redditors to become bone marrow donors to help a Reddit employee (and others) to defeat leukemia.
Martin’s community has shown through their votes that they have a lot of respect for him. But it’s clear from what Martin expects of redditors that he respects them—and relates to them—just as much in return.
“Redditors are curious about the world,” he said. “They’re always looking for something new. That curiosity is why Reddit has expanded in ways nobody ever thought possible.”
Top of the list
As the Daily Dot previously reported, Ohanian and Reddit’s former chief, Christopher Slowe, sparked the idea to nominate Martin.
“Finally, a Time person of the year candidate that we can believe in!” Slowe wrote.
Though he appreciates the sentiment, Martin, who didn’t seem to like talking about himself very much, has urged redditors to vote for another candidate: Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi.
Redditors voted for Martin because of what the reserved, bearded general manager represents about Reddit. But Martin found it “absurd” that a person like him could place so highly.
“I'd much rather Asghar Farhadi win Time's 100 Poll - his beard is superior to my own,” he said.
Here, the Time poll reveals Martin’s quiet influence a second time. Martin may still have come in second, but Farhadi won fourth place.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story ran a quote from Martin out of context, referred to Martin inaccurately as Reddit’s “community manager,” (Martin is now general manager), and stated that Reddit was founded in 2004. The correct year is 2005.