Confusing times over at Reddit, as the platform continues to clash with its user community – which, in Reddit’s case, is also largely its moderation team, its content management engine, etc.
The use of volunteer mods for each subreddit essentially meshes the user/host dynamic, which in Reddit’s case, has often meant that the platform has had to bow to users more than it would like.
It’s now looking to address this imbalance.
As some subreddit mods continue their strike action in response to Reddit upping the price of its API access (putting popular third-party apps out of the market), Reddit’s now also announced that it’s ending its popular Reddit Gold offering, which provides a way for users to acknowledge each other with a form of in-app currency.
Reddit Gold, part of its Reddit Premium subscription program (subscribers get 700 Reddit coins per month), provides a means for users to award their favorite creators in the app. You can’t exchange these awards for money, or use them for anything other than acknowledgment. But even so, they’ve become an important element within the Reddit ecosystem.
And now they’re going away.
As explained by Reddit:
“Many eons ago, Reddit introduced something called Reddit Gold. Gold then evolved, and we introduced new awards including Reddit Silver, Platinum, Ternium, and Argentium. And the evolution continued from there. While we saw many of the awards used as a fun way to recognize contributions from your fellow redditors, looking back at those eons, we also saw consistent feedback on awards as a whole. First, many don’t appreciate the clutter from awards (50+ awards right now, but who’s counting?) and all the steps that go into actually awarding content. Second, redditors want awarded content to be more valuable to the recipient.”
As a result, Reddit’s now ending the program entirely:
“It’s become clear that awards and coins as they exist today need to be re-thought, and the existing system sunsetted. Rewarding content and contribution (as well as something golden) will still be a core part of Reddit. We’ll share more in the coming months as to what this new future looks like.”
So Reddit is looking to introduce an alternative form of acknowledgment, likely in the form of an in-app coin with increased utility. But the removal of Reddit Gold is unlikely to be popular among Reddit’s core users – and without a specific replacement as yet, the announcement’s likely to cause more redditor unrest.
Though Reddit, as noted, is already working to implement a clearer division between users and platform management, as a means to wrest power back to its side.
In a recent interview with NBC, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said that the platform’s mods had become too powerful, and vowed to change the rules to dilute this.
As per Huffman:
"If you're a politician or a business owner, you are accountable to your constituents. So a politician needs to be elected, and a business owner can be fired by its shareholders. And I think, on Reddit, the analogy is closer to the landed gentry: The people who get there first get to stay there and pass it down to their descendants, and that is not democratic."
Huffman’s comments came in response to the API protest, with Huffman noting that many users were actually in support of Reddit’s moves, even if moderators were not. That meant that these moderators could lock Reddit users out of the system, which, according to Huffman, is not sustainable.
Which makes even more sense when you also consider that Reddit’s looking to launch an IPO sometime soon, and if moderators still hold the reigns, that could impact its revenue potential. This was also highlighted within the protest action, with moderators making their communities private, or switching them to ‘NSFW’, both actions that make them ineligible for ads.
It seems that Reddit management is now determined to re-establish its hierarchical structure, and water down mod controls. Whether this alternative Reddit payment offering will link into this is yet to be seen, but Reddit seems particularly motivated to lessen the influence of mods, in whatever ways it can.
Which could also be disastrous for the platform, long-term. According to research conducted by Northwestern University, Reddit’s volunteer mod army performs at least $3.4 million worth of labor annually.
That’s a lot for Reddit to replace, if push came to shove.
And with Reddit continuing to make unpopular moves, like erasing user chat histories, it seems like further clashes are inevitable.
How will that impact Reddit’s business plans, and can Reddit use this as a pathway to effective restructure?
Paraphrasing Yoda: ‘Begun the Mod Wars have’.