How The Washington Post is Using Reddit to Redefine Social Media

Over the last few years, the relationship between Reddit and the media has been nothing if not controversial.

Avid users have become used to seeing Reddit dredged for content and comments on news events that end up appearing on the front page of media sites the following day, often without approval or backlinks. Recently, it’s evolved to the stage where users are adding disclaimers to their posts to ensure they are not replicated without permission.

The situation is an embarrassment to journalistic standards and, ultimately, a complete underutilisation of a platform that boasts an international user base of 270 million.

That’s not entirely the fault of media companies though. Reddit – a site where engagement drives content reach rather than advertising dollars – has traditionally seen brand self-promotion as spam in order to keep the conversation organic.

That changed on April 21st of 2017, when The Washington Post partnered with Reddit to create a ‘profile page’ on which to share their content and connect with the audience.

Moderated by audience editor Gene Park, the page is most popular on the r/politics subreddit, where the phrase ‘F5 o’clock’ has been coined in reference to users refreshing the page at 5PM to see what news WaPo had broken that evening.

Of course, it’s about more than posting content. Anyone can do that and, in fact, users are still more likely to engage on the same article published by another user than the paper itself.

Where the Post is seeing the biggest benefit to having a presence on Reddit is in the comments.

“This isn’t a traffic play; it’s an engagement play”, Park told NiemanLab last year.

“So the strategy includes inserting ourselves into comments under stories that are posted. The Washington Post is linked to quite often on Reddit. We want to find those conversations around our stories to see if we can provide more context or more answers. Sometimes we might’ve written a bunch of stories that relate to questions people are asking. I might use my knowledge and ties to get that information to people.”

When their readers are wanting to discuss the news, The Washington Post is ready for the conversation.

When a reader asked about their uncensored use of the word “shithole” in relation to a comment by Trump, they were there to explain such a historical headline.

When a reader questioned their publication of off the record comments, they were there to explain their decision.

And when they didn’t have the space to include a source’s entire quote, they were there to post it in full for the interested.

They’ve also been there to explain their process, share a meme, and make a joke at their own expense.

In just eight months, The Washington Post have redefined social media. The company has found a new way to bring their product directly to the consumer, and engage with them over it on both a personal and professional level to the degree unseen even on their own website.

The implications are huge for an industry that’s been tarred as an enemy of the people since the rise of Trump to the presidency. As the WaPo slogan goes, “Democracy Dies in Darkness” (or “Dankness”, if you read the profile page). Here is a new means of bringing the truth to light.

Park says users who realise this have been tagging the profile when news tips have appeared across the site to ensure the company is aware of them and can follow them up as they like. It’s probably not long before the paper unleashes a big scoop based on such a tip.

There’s a lesson here for all 8 Percent businesses. We often talk about the importance of putting a face on your product and finding new and innovative ways to take it to your audience.

What The Washington Post have done is simple, yet groundbreaking. And if such a traditional company from a radically shifting industry can find new ways of sharing their stories, there’s no reason you can’t too.

Join the 8 Percent.

Join the group that everyone's talking about! Just enter your name and email to receive a weekly update on what's new in the elite world of the 8 Percenters, as well as special offers, invitations and free downloads.