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Is Reddit Finally Capitalizing on Its Mobile Audience with AMA App?
Posted on September 3rd 2014
Yesterday, reddit launched its first mobile app: an iOS app - Android is on the way - dedicated to showcasing AMAs from the /r/IamA subreddit. AMAs (short for "Ask Me Anything") are Q&A style interviews where users of the site submit questions for interview particpants to answer. The launch of this app is a big step for reddit, who have previously left providing a mobile reddit experience to third-party developers and community members. So, why now, and why just for AMAs?
What is an AMA and why are they so important?
AMA ("ask me anything") is a crowd sourced interview of sorts. Before reddit had reached the mainstream popularity it has now, it was usually frequented by people in interesting situations or jobs (e.g. "I am a prison guard - Ask Me Anything!"), but has recently become a much bigger deal and is now a staple in the press tour for a lot of big celebs and public figures. For example, Barack Obama took part in one on the 2012 campaign trail. The range of AMA subjects is huge: from billionaire tech leaders and former state governors to hip-hop superstars and astronauts . What started as a community-created and moderated subreddit has become a jewel in the reddit crown.
Why did they release an app just for this section of the site?
reddit is made up of thousands of subreddits, covering just about anything you could want to read links or discussions about. Want to read about video game? /r/games or /r/gaming is the place for you! Want to see men from eastern European states resting on their haunches? Check out /r/slavs_squatting (SFW). Despite its popularity and diversity, however, reddit does not have its own mobile app. Instead, it relies on third party developers to create apps for a mobile reddit experience via its API (e.g. Alien Blue, Reddit Is Fun), so why have they gone and made an app just for AMAs?
Simply put: due to the celebrity draw, /r/IAmA (where the AMAs take place) is becoming a big entry point for the reddit experience. AMAs are now frequently quoted on other news sites, as well as being promoted by participants themselves. So to capitalize on, reddit have made this app to provide casual/new users a "best of" reddit experience. In their own words: "we created this introductory app for people to enjoy some of the best of reddit".
What's the app like?
I'm a keen redditor, and have from playing around with the app today I can defintely say it's a big departure the typical reddit user experience. It feels a lot more like "Secret" and I wouldn't be surprised if it was influenced by this in some way. It's very easy to sort through answered / unanswered questions and just get the responses from the participant, without having to root through big comment threads to get to them. The use of themed icons to describe the type of subject is also a nice visual touch (e.g. a book icon for journalists / authors, sunglasses for actors / general celebrities, a tennis ball for sports stars and so on) and definitely showcases the wide variety of subjects on offer.
What does this mean for reddit's future?
Like many booming web companies, reddit has a monetization problem. It's not surprising they are trying to draw in an even bigger mass audience to try and make some money from. I'm sure they're also sick of sites like Mashable and Buzzfeed aggregating content from reddit, taking potential audience share away and making their own ad money from it. This app also offers reddit the opportunity to monetize this app through iAds - or Google Mobile Ads when the Android version becomes avaiable - should they want to.
It's hard to imagine how this app experience could apply to other subreddits, however. The lengthy, constantly diverging comment threads are core to the "traditional" reddit experience, after all. That said, it's definitely interesting to see one of the biggest sites on the web finally dip its own toe into mobile, and could signify that they are finally ready to directly cater to a huge segement of their audience.
What do you think of this app? What do you think its launch means for reddit? Let me know in the comments or by tweeting @benjmartin on twitter.