In early October, candidates will be wheeling across the country, feverishly shaking hands and kissing babies. It's a familiar, thoroughly rehearsed, and perfectly choreographed routine. But this fall, the candidates will be joined by a new presence bussing across the heartlands: Reddit.
Reddit, which pulled down an astounding 3.1 billion pageviews in July, still furrows brows among less tech-savvy crowds. There are many still unfamiliar with the passionate Web community, but Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian made headlines this year during the protests of SOPA and PIPA, the online piracy acts that threatened the open nature of the Internet. Joining other tech companies, Reddit famously "blacked out" its site in January in urging Congress to drop the maligned legislation. Now, the company plans to take Internet advocacy one step further with the announcement of Reddit's Internet 2012 bus tour.
Starting in Colorado and ending in Kentucky, the bus will weave its way through the center of the country, visiting with startups, meetups, colleges, agriculture businesses and politicians. Its agenda? According to Reddit's IndieGogo fundraising campaign, it includes "highlight[ing] candidates who support free and open Internet and get[ting] people to sign up to vote." Other initiatives will focus on encouraging engineers and programmers to run for local and state offices across the country as well as adding signatures to a large parchment declaration of Internet freedom.
The trip will be a grand experiment for the site, which conducts regional meetups, but never anything on this kind of scale. However, Reddit general manager, Erik Martin, believes the trip can capture the Internet's true impact and potential. "The open Internet is our frontier," he told Adweek. "It's a chance for some new starts. It's a chance to correct some old flaws. A chance to build something. Individuals and small businesses are taking those chances everyday."