Home Platforms COO Jen Wong On Why Reddit Is Ready To Become A Mature Advertising Business

COO Jen Wong On Why Reddit Is Ready To Become A Mature Advertising Business

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Jen Wong, COO, Reddit

No advertiser, publisher, tech vendor or platform is immune to signal loss.

But Reddit, which will host its first-ever earnings call as a public company on May 7, is making the case that its platform is “signal resilient.”

“The majority of our targeting is based on people’s activity on Reddit,” said COO Jen Wong. “That’s resilient [to signal loss] because it’s happening within our own ecosystem.”

Reddit has its own pixel to track and measure the actions Redditors take after interacting with an ad on its platform. A measurement pixel is de rigueur for any platform with advertising business ambitions.

But, as Reddit put it the S-1 statement it filed in February, “the foundation of our ad performance is based on context and interest.”

Contextual advertising is less vulnerable to regulatory pressures and privacy-related platform changes, like Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency framework. And it’s also more “logical” from a consumer experience point of view, Wong said.

“If you’ve gone to a camping subreddit or you’re looking at a post about camping, you might get a camping-related ad – and to me that’s both very sensible and signal-resilient,” Wong said. “Nothing that happens in the broader internet landscape can change the fidelity of that information.”

Wong spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: You and I are having this conversation before Reddit enters a quiet period in advance of its first earnings call. So, hey, make some forward-looking statements! Or at least give us a teaser.

JEN WONG: In the advertising world, everyone always talks about the duopoly or whatever, but we’re outgrowing our peers from a user perspective and a business perspective, and that makes me optimistic.

I also think our strategic position is good and changes in the internet ecosystem are a tailwind for our business. The authenticity of the content we have on our platform is becoming more valuable to search and for training AI models.

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The word “community” has become a buzzword, but it’s our lifeblood, and marketers value it.

Speaking of marketers and what they value, many still place Reddit in the “social media” bucket. Do you hate that?

Yes, because we’re not social media. In the ad world, everyone wants to put you in a bucket, and if you’re UGC with a large audience and a bidded marketplace, you de facto get classified as social media.

It was really hard for us when we started because we were always told, “Go talk to the social buyers.”

We’ve spent a long time educating the market that we’re a community platform and that we have different dynamics than social media. I think the message has come through. We have contextual keyword targeting and high intent, so we can sit at the intersection of search and social-type features.

What about the long-held belief – it’s out there in the ether – that Redditors simply don’t like ads.

That’s one of the biggest myths about us.

We want happy users and happy customers. Our users are happy when ads are logical and not creepy, and our customers are happy when ads perform.

We’re building a full-funnel business. We started at the top, and now we’re working our way toward performance. The good thing about performance is that it aligns with interest. If a user doesn’t click or buy, then we can’t grow our business.

RedditOn the subject of intent, why have Reddit posts been getting way more viability in Google Search recently?

Our corpus of content is getting bigger. We’ve grown our international footprint and we’ve expanded in terms of communities and the breadth of topics. We’re just covering more ground.

If you look around the internet today, for better or worse, there are a lot of places that have influencers, commercial intent and affiliate ties. But Reddit is one of the few places you can go where people happily and willingly share their expertise and opinions for no other reason than to answer a question to help someone else.

We estimate that roughly 40% of new conversations on Reddit are about products and services.

Say a community eviscerates a brand or a Redditor advises to “Never buy X product because it’s terrible.” Might that not alienate certain advertisers?

For one, you don’t have to be there. A brand can choose not to appear on those posts.

But beyond that, it depends on your brand’s ethos. Maybe that’s an opportunity for the brand to start a conversation in that community to try and get people to reconsider – to make the case and change their mind.

There’s an openness to that on Reddit where people invite others to try and change their mind on fundamental beliefs and principles.

r/vegancooking (Reddit)Is the specificity of subreddits a selling point for advertisers?

Our breadth of content means that any advertiser should be able to find their home, particularly SMBs. If I’m a small vegan spice company and I only want to reach vegan cooks, we have communities dedicated to that for them to target.

Taken together, niches add up to a large marketplace for advertisers.

What are your personal go-to subreddits?

We’re about to head into gardening season, and I’m planning my garden, so r/VegetableGardening. And then food, of course: r/Breadit, r/​​Pizza, r/BBQ and r/grilling.

I also spend a lot of time on r/Polaroid because I love vintage cameras and I’m a Polaroid collector.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.

For more articles featuring Jen Wong, click here.

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