Reddit for Journalists

Three speakers at news:rewired talking about use of Reddit in journalism, moderated by Mark Frankel, assistant editor, social news, BBC

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

James Cook, Daily Dot

James Cook speaking at News Rewired

There’s two main tasks:

  • Finding new stories
  • Sharing stories

How do you get started? Sign up. That allows you to start following what you’re really interested in. Reddit is made of communities of interests: subreddits.

How do you do Reddit wrong? Don’t identify yourself. Reddit is great at identifying who you are – and if you’re pretending to be someone else, you’ll be busted. Be honest about who you are. Be honest and you’ll get good results

How about promoting your story? Look for who has been sharing your stories. Chances are someone has already done it. If it’s there, leave a comment saying you’re the author and asking for feedback and questions.

If they haven’t – well, the temptation is to post your own. And that is fine. But gaming Reddit isn’t. OnGamers was banned for Reddit for doing this, and lost 50% of their traffic overnight. Here’s a rule of thumb: no more than 10% of your links should be to your own stories.

Victoria Taylor, director of communications at reddit

Victoria Taylor of Reddit

Most social media sites are about building followers. Not Reddit. It’s all one-to-one with the possibility of things going one-to-many pretty quickly. People are sharing to a group of friends, not “publishing”. They probably don’t think of it a news.

They’re announcing reddit live update threads. The UkranianConflict live threat has been going for 5 months now.

The average Redditor spends 20 minutes per visit, and comes three times a day. Everything on Reddit is democratically chosen and up voted. They have a video portal, reddit TV – and the average user spends 40 minutes there.

The basic rule is: don’t do self-promotion. Identify yourself, and interact with the community. Be a useful part of it. Doing an Ask Me Anything can help immensely. They’re enjoyable, and a time commitment of one to two hours. And you can use sponsored headlines to push content into there, if you want.


  • respect the community – your deadlines are not their deadlines.
  • The communities belong to their members
  • engage with transparency

Fergus Bell, AP

Fergus Bell of the Associated Press

Why do news organisations care about UGC? It allows us to be eyewitnesses to the world, develop multi-format reporting, and work in real-time. But there are ethical considerations here. Is the content owned by the person posting it? Is there justification for just grabbing it during breaking news events. Do you credit users or platforms?

Verification is vital. There was a video of a child being snatched by a golden eagle. It was fake – a movie making project. The Reddit community is great at forensically analysing things like this. You need to be transparent about your verification process – and say how you verified it.

Viral spread can be gamed. There was a “hilarious” flight attendant video that seems to have been created just so the woman in question could get on Ellen. Are you comfortable being part of that game?

It’s OK to be just an observer. If someone is posting from a dangerous place – is you interacting with them going to put them at risk. Digital door knocks need the same sensitivity as real life visits.

Ownership – It’s very easy to take the best videos from Reddit’ front page, and stick them on your site. The thing is, people know what Reddit is, and what the front peg is. You’re not adding value. Fergus likes starting his searches on page 6 – the stuff that’s bubbling under, but hadn’t hit the front page yet. The whole of the journalism business bombarding Reddit posters – who may not even have created what they’re sharing – with request for reuse is not the right approach. We need to rethink this.

Anonymity – would we take tho story from an anonymous source in other situations? If not, why do it on Reddit? We need to think about this.


Bombarding – Fergus rarely sees many responses, and rarely sees journalists asking if it’s their work. Reach out through direct messages and other methods. Victoria point out you can, in some situations, go through her.

Broadcasting – it’s not a community that belongs to you. You can add to the discussion, but not use it as your marketing channel. They’re happy to help you strategise – think about AMAs, for example, around big stories.

Culture – There’s a guide on their wiki.

crowd-sourced journalismdigital doorsteppingengagementethicsredditSocial Mediaverification

Adam Tinworth Twitter

Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.