According to Reddit’s year-end traffic reports, (2013, 2012), the social news website had huge growth: Pageviews were up by 51 percent year-over-year, and unique visitors grew by 83 percent. These are impressive numbers, but data from the content sharing platform Shareaholic suggest a different trend when it comes to referrals. According to their data, Reddit’s share of visits to websites in Shareaholic’s network dropped 36 percent in the same period of time:
In the blog post, Shareaholic’s Danny Wong wrote: “Reddit seems to be hoarding its users and keeping all of its traffic within the social news site; our data, essentially, suggests Reddit is referring less traffic out to sites, which is strange behavior for a social bookmarking site.”
Indeed, the report led people to wonder if the platform is turning inward. Robinson Meyer wrote at The Atlantic: “Where [Reddit] once offered a bazaar of links, now it embodies a kind of earnest Internet town hall.”
However, Reddit general manager Erik Martin told Social Times that they’ve always regarded reports from Shareaholic to be suspect: “The way that people share to and from Reddit are different from other social networks,” he said. “We block [Shareaholic] because they’re frequently used by spammers… I would not trust their data in regards to Reddit.”
“Links out aren’t just coming from link submissions. We send a ton of traffic out to publishers and YouTubers in the comments as well, so I think that’s another area where their study is inaccurate,” said Martin.
However, according to Wong, “what Reddit is assuming is that… the data is generated through our tools. We also have analytics on sites in our network.” That network has over 200,000 sites.
Wong was careful not to claim that their network was representative of the industry: “It’s a sample, but it’s a significant data set.” He’s confident in their numbers because Facebook has publicly cited the company’s data.
But no matter what people will say about social news site’s referral traffic, “we’re not in the business of sending traffic to publishers… Our site is designed for our users,” said Martin. In other words, Reddit puts a priority on the ‘social’ in ‘social news.’
When asked if he thought if Reddit was indeed turning inward, Martin cited a dramatic increase in traffic from 2007 to 2009 to subreddits like /r/AskReddit and /r/IAmA. “It happened five years ago,” he said.