February 25, 2016

Seven percent of adults in the U.S. use Reddit, but 78 percent of those users get their news there, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. The report, based on a survey and a three-month analysis, shows how Reddit users come to the platform to engage around news. You can view the full report here.

Reddit is a go-to social network for breaking news, said Melody Kramer, Poynter’s innovation columnist.

“And a team of people very quickly begin to disseminate news from a variety of different sources — so people are likely to stay in that channel (and revisit it) to get updates.”

Reddit has 230 million monthly uniques, said Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian said in a email, and more than 110 million unique visitors from the U.S. in the last month. It has both the size and the influence to shape elections, he said.

“It’s where one can freely express views and have an open, honest discussion about what’s going on in the world — whether it’s about politics, your local sports team, or your hometown. We aim to empower users to connect on whatever they’re passionate about, in real-time, and find their people.”

Pew has examined how Americans use Facebook and Twitter in the past. In July 2015, it reported that 63 percent of Facebook and Twitter users used the networks to find news, although nearly twice as many turn to Twitter for breaking news. A January 2014 report from Pew showed that 71 percent of adults online use Facebook and 23 percent used Twitter.

Here are a few key findings from the report on Reddit:

—Because Reddit is built around topics, “users actively choose to participate in specific discussion groups that interest them, called ‘subreddits,’ rather than creating friend networks.”

“Reddit is serving as these folks’ homepage or community center during an event,” Kramer said. “And if you dive in further — let’s say, by going to /r/kalamazoo to see what people were saying over the weekend, you’ll find local people sharing information with each other.”

— Men make up 69 percent of Reddit users. Fifty-eight percent of users are between 18 and 29, 63 percent are White, 41 percent identify as liberal and 38 percent identify as moderate.

So how can Reddit broaden its appeal? Kramer wasn’t sure.

“Certain subreddits have figured it out – but they’re usually the ones that stay far away from politicized topics, like /r/slowcooking, which is actually quite nice,” she said. “I see Reddit more as a hub pointing people to individual spokes, and each spoke feels different. We could start a news community on Reddit, put in female moderators, and start to build a more inclusive community. From a organizational level, Reddit could then surface more inclusive communities to their front page more often, but is that what their existing community wants or will respond to? I’m not sure.”

— One more finding: Sen. Bernie Sanders was mentioned a lot.

In the months before the early presidential debates last fall, Sen. Bernie Sanders was mentioned in more comments (about 165,000) than Hillary Clinton (85,000) and Donald Trump (73,000) combined. The Sanders phenomenon recalls previous presidential candidates who, while not leading in the polls, saw outsized levels of conversation or support in pockets of the internet, including Ron Paul on Twitter, and Howard Dean with Meetup.com and the early blogosphere.

The report is a great primer if you haven’t yet spent much time on Reddit. It includes definitions: (“‘Subreddits’ are roughly equivalent to forums on message boards and are based around a subject (such as /r/politics) or the process used to discuss a variety of subjects (such as /r/AskAnAmerican or /r/explainlikeimfive).”) The report also offers visuals on how Reddit works.

Screen shot, Pew Research Center

Screen shot, Pew Research Center

Poynter has a pretty extensive Reddit archive, including the journalist’s quick guide to Reddit and how to get your news site banned from Reddit.

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Kristen Hare covers the people and business of local news and is the editor of Locally at Poynter. She previously worked as a staff writer…
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