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A business journalist’s guide to Reddit, SubReddits

June 13, 2013

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One social media site you may have overlooked is Reddit.com, but don’t be too quick to rule it out. Like Facebook and Twitter, Reddit can be a useful source for business journalists to gather information and find sources.

At first glance, the site seems text-heavy and difficult to use, but it is actually easier than it first appears and it is packed with information.

Kelly McBride, senior faculty for ethics at the Poynter Institute, has been a Reddit subscriber for six years. She recently wrote a story (How newsrooms are using Reddit and what they are learning from it) for Poynter that said Reddit has generated an increased amount of traffic to news sites in 2013. But journalists can gain more from Reddit than just traffic—If they know how to use it, that is.

So, what is Reddit?

Reddit is a social community formed around millions of threads known as “subreddits” that generate conversations between users. Any of the 69.9 million monthly users can post links under almost any topic to start a conversation.

McBride cautions, however, that not anybody can jump in and start using Reddit without being aware of the unwritten rules, or reddiquette.

“Unless you have experience, it’s likely that you’re going to violate some of their standards,” McBride said. “Before a journalist starts using Reddit to find sources, a journalist needs to spend time on Reddit and see how it works.”

A few “reddiquettes” to keep in mind:

  • Write like you’re talking to a human.
  • Read the rules of a community before submitting a post.
  • Behave like you would in real life.
  • Post to the appropriate subreddit.
  • Vote posts up and down based on their content.
  • Don’t flood reddit with a lot of stories at once.

Despite popular belief, McBride said Reddit is a fairly easy-to-use site because it contains no algorithms and is completely user-driven.

“If you’re going to get something out of Reddit you really have to engage with the Reddit community,” she said.

Reddit for the business journalist

Business journalists can start using Reddit by finding the subreddit for their geographic community.

“I’ve lived in my community for 10 years and I found restaurants I’d never heard of and events I’d never gone to,” McBride said.

Another good idea is to find subreddits related to your beat or business topics you are interested in reporting on.

Some examples are: investing, real estate, small business, economy, agriculture, finance, personal finance, etc.

“I bet there is a subreddit for any possible topic you could come up with in business,” McBride said.

Just looking at the posts isn’t enough, though. McBride suggests joining the communities you are interested in to find story ideas and possible sources.

“Post links and join discussions,” she said. “Inevitably you will come up with story ideas.”

Value for journalists

The Reddit community will help you out, so use them. It’s a great place to bounce ideas off of others and ask for help developing new ones.

“The people on Reddit will give you genuine answers,” McBride said. “It’s like your little focus group and research machine so you’re not starting from zero when you make your first phone call.”

Reddit Economs subreddit
This subreddit is about the science of economics.

Reddit users can also help you do some crowdsourcing for your stories.

“If I need documents from 50 different courthouses, they will get online and figure out where the documents are available,” McBride said.

Additionally, Reddit sorts information differently than other social media sites, so you may come across stories you haven’t read before. It’s a good way to see the business world through new eyes.

McBride also said the views within the Reddit community, whether they be political, religious or social, are very diverse.

“I get exposed to a lot of views I wouldn’t get anywhere else,” she said.

Remaining ethical

IAmA example on Reddit.com

Like any social media site, Reddit is a public forum that has a lot of bogus material intermixed with the useful information. So, as a journalist, you are responsible for verifying the information and sources you get from Reddit.

McBride suggests being upfront with Reddit users by telling them who you are and what you’re doing.

“It’s important to use your real name and even to identify yourself in your screen name so people know from the get-go that they’re interacting with a reporter,” she said.

On Reddit, honesty really is the best policy.

Examples of useful subreddits



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