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Why Reddit’s CEO got sick of r/Atheism and r/Politics

According to Yishan Wong, money was not a factor in the site's decision to remove r/Politics and r/Atheism from the site's front page.


Fernando Alfonso III


Posted on Jul 18, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 11:08 am CDT

Money was reportedly not a factor in Reddit’s decision to remove the contentious r/Politics and r/Atheism forums from the site’s homepage.

Reddit CEO Yishan Wong took to Reddit’s r/TheoryOfReddit Wednesday to address concerns that the company removed both as default subreddits—forums that all non-logged-in users see when they visit the site—to make its front page more appealing to advertisers. 

Wong echoed an explanation made by Alex Angel (cupcake1713) on the company blog stating that both subreddits were not growing and evolving enough.

“We didn’t make the frontpage changes for any revenue-related or mainstreaming reason,” Wong wrote. “We made them because (as has actually been discussed in this very subreddit quite often) the default subreddits all evolve in different ways and the community itself begins to find one or more of those subreddits more or less valuable/desirable.”

Default subreddit positions are prized on Reddit for one reason: exposure. All new registered Reddit users are automatically subscribed to these subreddits when they join, and most never unsubscribe from them. And thanks to Reddit’s 70 million–plus unique visitors each month, a permanent place on Reddit’s front page results in tremendous traffic for sites submitted to these forums. 

Wong also stated that Reddit currently operates at a financial loss each month and is considering to release a simple graph showing revenue versus expenses on a quarterly and monthly basis. In September 2011, Reddit was spun off from owner Conde Nast and is now a subsidiary.

Wong provided the following bullet list detailing how Reddit makes its money. We’ve edited the list for length. Visit r/TheoryOfReddit for the original. 

  • We run ads. Even though we are really strict about ad quality (no flash, spammy, etc), we don’t have a problem finding advertisers, and we don’t get any complaints from them about our defaults and it doesn’t seem to affect their decisions. 
  • We sell you reddit gold. Our plan with that is to add features and benefits so that over time your subscription becomes more valuable – at this point, if you are/were intending to buy anything from one of the partners, a month’s subscription to reddit gold will actually pay for itself immediately via the discount. Incidentally I should note again that the gold partners who provide those benefits don’t pay us. The business “model” there is roughly: (1) partner gives users free/discounted stuff. (2) Users benefit, buy gold. (3) Sometimes users have a problem or question, so they post in /r/goldbenefits
  • redditgifts Marketplace is actually turning out to be promising. It’s still nascent, but gift exchanges are quite popular and (again in reddit fashion) we heavily curate the merchants who are allowed in the marketplace. We’ll see how it develops.

Illustration by Jason Reed

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*First Published: Jul 18, 2013, 11:51 am CDT