When the needle flies off the analytics dial for Poynter.org, a few likely culprits come to mind. When we’re not getting Drudged or writing about AP Style changes, the most frequent source of any unexpected spike is Reddit.
Of course, we’ve learned over the last decade that chasing spikes is an unsustainable way to approach traffic. It’s better to build a smaller, loyal audience that visits a site with frequency than it is to chase viral stories.
The not-so-revolutionary secret to the Post brand’s gradual acceptance by Reddit is its consistent transparency, including responding to unflattering accusations about the “Amazon Washington Post” and its ownership, or questions about how John Podesta has influenced the Post’s reporting since “he was brought on board” (he’s a contributing columnist, not an employee).
Speaking to NiemanLab, Gene Park, the Post’s social media editor, says, “This isn’t a traffic play; it’s an engagement play. So the strategy includes inserting ourselves into comments under stories that are posted. The Washington Post is linked to quite often on Reddit. We want to find those conversations around our stories to see if we can provide more context or more answers. Sometimes we might’ve written a bunch of stories that relate to questions people are asking. I might use my knowledge and ties to get that information to people.”
Taking a cue from the Post and others, I set up Crowdtangle (free and available to anyone who publishes original content) to alert me via email and the whole team via Slack every time a user posts a Poynter article to any subreddit (for the Reddit uninitiated, a subreddit is a sort of channel focused on a specific topic). If you’d like to copy our Crowdtangle settings, here they are.
Now we always know when someone has shared our work on Reddit and can jump in to say hi, add context and toss out some questions. There’s probably an easier way to do it, but it works for us. Keep in mind that this just a starting point to make the most of Reddit. The Post’s commendable results mostly come from audience editor Gene Park’s time, dedication and voice.
If you do decide to do this for your site, let Poynter know how it goes.