How to get your news site banned from Reddit

I’ve called Facebook a capricious despot when it comes to how its mystery algorithm dishes out prime News Feed real estate. Figuring out how it favors certain types of content over others can have a major positive impact on your site’s traffic. For better or worse, news organizations are dependent on Facebook for an ever larger share of visitors.

But Reddit might be even more confusing to news organizations. It’s a place where successful posts can expose your content to an international audience of millions and lead to big traffic spikes — but also where human moderators can cut you off for bad behavior or suddenly decide your domain is no longer a good fit for the site’s primary news section.

The Atlantic has experienced both forms of banishment, barred for a time in 2012 due to overzealous link sharing by its then-social media editor. More recently, the media company’s domain has been banned from /r/news, a subreddit that all Reddit users see by default unless they unsubscribe, alongside other major sites like The Huffington Post, Vice and Salon. Content from the sites dropped off severely late last summer.

(Jeff Sonderman wrote a great Reddit primer two years ago for those unfamiliar with the site’s mechanics and terminology.)

“The moderators’ rational, as we best understand it, is just that /r/news be focused exclusively on ‘hard news’ and not broader approaches that integrate analysis / opinions / essays / etc.,” J.J. Gould, TheAtlantic.com’s editor, told Poynter via email.

Meanwhile, the moderators took some heat in February for removing links to a Glenn Greenwald story because they didn’t adhere to the subreddit’s guidelines that submitted articles not be biased or opinionated. And policies banning certain domains aren’t completely transparent, as some redditors complained in this thread. It’s not exactly clear where the moderators are drawing the line. (I messaged them Thursday afternoon and haven’t heard back.)

But it’s their prerogative to draw the line wherever they want, and it’s important to note that the moderators aren’t employed by Reddit and are distinct from Reddit administrators. If you don’t like how a moderator is managing a subreddit, the best solution is to start your own subreddit and moderate it with different rules, said Victoria Taylor, director of communications for Reddit.

Gould said he thinks Atlantic content is appropriate for /r/news but isn’t sweating the change:

I think The Atlantic is relevant to the news every day, so I’d like to see members of /r/news be able to refer to us when appropriate.

I’m not worried about our readership being suppressed as such, though. It’s super-healthy. Lots of people keep reading The Atlantic, referred from all kinds of sources, including, in fact, from all over Reddit.

So, you know, I hope folks on /r/news can bring The Atlantic back into the mix when they want to, but that’s up to the moderators.

Alexis Madrigal wrote in 2011 that a popular Reddit post “can drive six-figure traffic to a story.” While The Atlantic’s domain is still welcome on lots of other subreddits, no doubt it hurts to lose visibility in the very popular /r/news.

What social media editors shouldn’t do

Taylor recently wrote a piece for Muck Rack detailing best practices for journalists on Reddit. Among her advice: “Whether editorial, advertising or somewhere in-between, submitting your content walks a fine line and can violate our rules on self promotion.”

So while there’s nothing news organizations can really do about rule changes that keep their links off individual subreddits, they can avoid site-wide banishment by educating social media editors, marketers and other employees about Reddit before they do anything to get a domain banned (as happened to The Atlantic, Businessweek, and Discovery News in 2012).

What do those employees need to know? “Reddit is fundamentally different from other social media platforms,” Taylor said. It’s not like Twitter and Facebook, where broadcasting links is encouraged. The worst thing a news organization can do on Reddit is to treat it like Twitter or Facebook to compete for attention and garner clicks.

It’s tempting to try to reach all those eyeballs, but it has to happen naturally. Taylor’s advice: “Create content that is interesting to redditors and let the content speak for itself. Let redditors submit the content for you.”

That means it doesn’t really make sense for anyone to implement a strategy for reaching readers on Reddit. You can facilitate sharing by having a Reddit button on your site or by arranging AMAs (ask me anything) with staffers to time with major news events, but beyond that your time is better spent trying to figure out smart Facebook and Twitter strategies. Let Reddit take care of itself.


Related: Straight from reddit’s director of communications: best practices for journalists on reddit (Muck Rack)

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  • http://sfbay.ca/ Jesse Garnier

    We at SFBay.ca were banned from the Bay Area sub-Reddit two years ago for posting three links to SFBay stories over a weekend. The ban seemed arbitrarily stern at the time, though we now understand it’s the way Reddit chooses to operate their site.

    What we didn’t appreciate and can’t support was the subsequent trolling of our site by an /r/BayArea moderator, and his multiple derisive, inaccurate and defamatory posts regarding our site and business model to our comments section and his own personal blog.

    I’m all for maintaining the sanctity of your own content. But I’m 100-percent against the kind of bullying and strong-arming I’ve seen and heard of more than once from Reddit moderators.

    SFBay.ca’s ban was lifted earlier this year at our request.

  • MichelleRafter

    I was reprimanded for using a geographically-based subreddit for posting a question related to a story I was reporting, even though I identified myself as a reporter. I’d read the subreddit’s etiquette guide beforehand and there was nothing directly banning the practice so I thought I was OK, but as I learned, it was a no no. I apologized to the moderator, and publicly on the subreddit, and still caught a lot of crap in comments, more so for the publication I was writing for than the query I’d posted. Lesson learned: don’t use reddit like Twitter, FB or LinkedIn for crowdsourcing.

  • http://www.currentargus.com Brandon Bowers

    The rules are silly. I was banned from posting to /r/news for submitting a story we wrote about fracking. When I asked for an explanation, this is the response I got:

    “[–] from NewsNinja101 [M] via /r/news/ sent 2 months ago

    I can explain that sir.

    Here at reddit we pride ourselves on not being an advertising outlet, that was can prevent, and the rules of reddit themselves “no advertisers” but the reality is there are no rules. We mods are the law here, and we enforce the laws we create and when our laws are good we build thriving communites.

    Kylde is the super-law, he’s one of the law men above the other law men. His word is law to the law men. When he decides something, thats it unless the supreme law-men say otherwise.”