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CNA explains: Reddit has gone public. What does this mean for users?

What could change now?

“Community-focused internet startups often struggle to balance monetization and community engagement,” said Mr. Li Jianggan, CEO of tech venture builder Momentum Works.

As an example, he pointed to China’s video-sharing platform Bilibili, which has “suffered major losses” since its IPO.

Despite having an older and more limited format compared to other community-centric platforms like Discord and Pinterest, Reddit has “surprisingly attracted and retained a young audience.”

The Reddit prospectus highlighted three monetization strategies.

Currently, ads appear in the site’s Home and Popular feeds, as well as in community threads.

Ads in comment threads and search pages, as well as video ads, have been identified as potential future opportunities.

Reddit also wants to use artificial intelligence (AI) to predict how users will interact with ads and increase ad reach, as well as track conversion (actions consumers take after interacting with an ad).

These help deliver and display return on investment, which in turn could help attract more advertisers.

Prof Crystal pointed out that local influencers in Singapore are conscious of linking ads to their personal backstories.

“So content is something Singaporeans are more forgiving of than just advertising for the sake of advertising,” she said.

“If you’re talking about Reddit just posting ads and disrupting our experience… that’s not going to be very, very helpful.”

Reddit has begun allowing third parties to access user-generated data, including for training large language models for AI. The US Federal Trade Commission is investigating these AI-related businesses.

Another potential purpose is data targeting, where companies use users’ demographic information to tailor content and ads, as described above.

One of Reddit’s features is that users are pseudonymous, so the community is not tied to its members having “a unique, coherent, long-term user identity and chain,” Prof. Crystal said.

There is also a “throwaway culture” where individuals have multiple handles, sometimes to “safely and actively participate in conversations that may be frowned upon in Singapore.”

Parts of it could be compromised in the name of more effective data alignment.

Prof Crystal pointed to Facebook, which introduced a real name system in 2014. However, she also pointed out that this wouldn’t necessarily be the case on Reddit.

“It’s just that now you have to be loyal and committed to one account… which is likely to put off many Singaporeans who are already familiar with tabs” or the practice of switching between different accounts. She said.

Natalie Pang, associate professor at the National University of Singapore, pointed out that advertisers want to know who they are reaching and targeting. Marketplaces cannot function without identification either.

However, she said it is also possible to target ads to thematic interests and locations already identified through subreddits.

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