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Will Native Advertising on Reddit Be an Opportunity for PR?

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DISCLAIMER: throughout my career as a literary publicist, I’ve tried to “place” a few clients on Reddit via the popular “Ask Me Anything” feature.

Reddit staffers were always accommodating, helping me set up a time in the AMA calendar and sharing best practices to ensure success. Although the results were better than some of my live Q&As on Goodreads, and approximately on par with the various TwitterChats (though with a longer shelf life), my clients were skeptical about the return on investment—will the redditor making fun of my hair actually buy my book?

Still, I knew that Reddit’s 114 million monthly users with their highly-curated threads presented an opportunity. I just didn’t know how best to seize that opportunity for my client, especially if he or she did not have the name recognition that would land a 3PM AMA on the site’s homepage.

I know I’m not alone in recognizing that opportunity: Reddit is moving into the native advertising game.

“We’re not monetizing to the full extent that we could,” said the newly-hired Director of Business Strategy Ellen Pao. “Our business comes from wanting to be able to continue to serve as a place where people build awesome communities.”

And from the New York Times article Can Reddit Grow Up Without Selling Out?:

That community is potentially a big prize for advertisers. Links that grow popular on the site often drive a surge of traffic elsewhere online. The activity has caught the attention of brands eager to show ads to large, enthusiastic audiences.

Now that Reddit is taking a swing at advertising perhaps I have found a way–but that’s a big perhaps.

For starters, Reddit’s foray into advertising is expensive—a large campaign from an advertiser will run in the $10,000 range, and a good-sized single ad sale is around $20,000—and some argue that it’s behind the times. Per the New York Times:

Many big brands are experimenting with buying ads through automated auction platforms, like those offered by Google and Facebook. These companies build profiles of users — age, web browsing habits, sex — and use those demographics to deliver better, more targeted ads.

This, however, runs into Reddit’s refusal to collect users’ personal data and cuts into many potential ad buyers’ bottom lines.

Truth be told, this PRNewser would be much happier sampling Reddit’s advertising reach through a program similar to Facebook. With Facebook, I can start small and then use the numbers to up the budget once the campaign has proven successful.

There’s also the big question of will it work? After all, what worked for Tumblr and Facebook did not work for Digg, and the Reddit community is notoriously, wonderfully skeptical. Of everything.

Kevin Rose, Digg co-founder general partner at the venture capital firm Google Ventures, understands this better than anyone:

One of the things you have to be careful of when you have a site that’s 100 percent community-driven is how best to support that community and not make them feel like you’ve sold out. You just don’t want that community to blow up on you.

PRNewsers, what do you think? What will these spots look like? Will you bite? How will you be leveraging Reddit going forward?

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