For the greater part of the past decade, Reddit has been a vibrant online community. And sometimes it dabbles in being a media company. (Certainly, it creates a lot of news that other sites shape into content.) Now, that dabbling is becoming intentional.
The company's co-founder and newly installed executive chairman, Alexis Ohanian, is at the helm of the initiative. He says that over the past four years, watching from a distance as the company grew (he stepped formally away from the company in 2010, and was brought back in full-time in November), he witnessed how much original content is created daily on Reddit by its diverse millions of users.
"There are so many media companies that are so good at harvesting that content," Ohanian says. "What I want to do is allow those stories--and the story behind their story--to be told by the people who are actually responsible for them."
The first iteration of Reddit's creating media content is a series of podcasts, debuting January 8, called Upvoted, Ohanian told Inc.com. (Episode 0 is now live; you can check it out here, and anywhere you subscribe to podcasts.) Episodes in the series will feature first-person stories told by redditors. Ohanian likens the format to ESPN's 30 for 30 series or a shorter (roughly 30-minute) This American Life. "We found a bunch of stories we wanted to investigate further from the front pages of Reddit--and found this was the best way to tell these stories," Ohanian said.
The first episode features an interview with a man named Dante Orpilla, perhaps better known on Reddit as "youngluck." Youngluck posted this ask-me-anything post--known as an "I am a," or IAmA, for the phrase with which a post usually begins--on Reddit 48 hours before starting a 10-year sentence in federal prison. (The sentence was later reduced, but that did not lessen the post's impact.)
Orpilla had been a redditor before posting the IAmA, and was receiving guidance from fellow redditors on his case, separately. But his post caught a wider scope of attention. Users responded with plenty of questions--and lots of extraordinarily specific advice. (They urged Orpilla to read a book every two days, go on a no-carb diet, and be friendly with--but under no circumstances join--prison gangs.) They also urged him to continue corresponding with the Reddit community while behind bars.
The original post was submitted on June 21, 2010. Four and a half years later, he is out of prison, and is seen as one of Reddit's success stories. Here's an artist-of-the-day post about him, and today he works as a designer at Reddit itself.
The first episode of Upvoted opens with a clip of Orpilla narrating his initial wide-eyed impression of the prison system, as compared with the outside world. Backed by a few thumps of pop music, Ohanian's voice chimes in. It explains basically everything else about the podcast:
Welcome to Upvoted. I'm Alexis Ohanian, and 10 years ago, Steve Huffman and I started Reddit.com. We were fresh out of college, and we just wanted to build the best platform we could for communities to connect and share online. Now I couldn't have imagined how much this would grow. And in the last decade, it has become one of the most trafficked sites on the Internet. And every day across thousands of communities on the network, some story bubbles up because a bunch of people click "upvote." And some person--some idea--gets the attention of millions of people all across the world. But that's not the end of the story. In fact, once something has been upvoted to one of the Reddit front-pages, it's usually just the beginning. And I want to use this podcast to dig a little deeper, and hopefully realize we are more connected than we thought--one upvote at a time.
It's not Reddit's first foray into producing content (there was a short-lived YouTube series called Explain Like I'm Five). And Reddit isn't guaranteeing a long lifespan for this podcast series--it wants to experiment and see if it amasses subscribers and regular listeners. If not, on to something new. For now, just four are lined up. One of the next is with Smooth McGroove, an Oklahoman who makes a cappella video theme song videos.
"We are really fortunate that Reddit is such a wealth of incredible stuff that new things bubble up every day," Ohanian says. "The only common thread is there is something new and interesting about every piece."