In early June, an audacious move by Reddit community moderators sparked widespread online outrage. Their opposition to Reddit’s decision to charge select developers for data access became a trigger point for user discontent, marking a significant downturn in engagement metrics across the site.
The protests began on June 12, spearheaded by a coalition of moderators who manage numerous subreddits. They voiced their disapproval of Reddit’s controversial decision to monetize data access through its API.
In an act of rebellion, they transformed their communities into private and restricted zones. This instigated a “blackout” movement that temporarily crashed Reddit’s servers.
Advertisers & Third Party Apps Bear the Brunt
According to Similarweb, a web traffic analysis firm, the blackout movement was instrumental in reducing daily traffic on Reddit by about 7%. Additionally, the time spent on the Reddit website fell by approximately 16% between June 12 and 13.
A significant outcome of the criticism was the notable decline in daily visits to Reddit’s ad portal. This portal is a crucial tool for advertisers to reach their target audience on Reddit.
Similarweb’s analysis reveals a drop in average session duration to about 7.16 minutes on the initial two days of the protest, down from the typical 8.40 minutes.
Separately, the site’s web traffic declined to around 52 million on June 13. It’s a significant drop compared to the nearly 56 million average of the preceding days.
Besides advertisers, some third-party applications have also experienced negative outcomes. After Reddit announced its plan to charge developers for data access via its API, numerous third-party apps started to grapple with additional costs. This ultimately drove them offline. Reddit’s popular client, Apollo, is included in the list.
Publicly Expressed Dissatisfaction
Despite the negative consequences, recent statistics suggest a rebound in Reddit’s daily traffic and average time spent on the site. On June 23, the platform witnessed an average of 8.37 minutes spent on the site and nearly 55 million visits. However, during the period from June 13 to 23, daily visits to Reddit’s ad portal decreased by about 20%.
The decline in visits to Reddit’s ad portal implies advertisers’ reluctance to engage with the platform amidst the ongoing protests.David F. Carr, a senior insights manager at Similarweb
On the other hand, data shared by the San Francisco–based market research firm Sensor Tower corroborates these findings. The firm mentioned a 17% day-over-day decrease in average time spent on Reddit’s mobile app on June 12.
Additionally, session counts on the app dropped by 7% on the first day of the protest.
Apollo’s downloads surged to about 9,000 per day on average since May 31 – a stark rise from the previous 3,000 daily downloads.
Despite some improvements, numerous popular subreddits remain private. This inhibits the return to pre-protest user engagement levels.
Sensor Tower’s insights suggest that some Redditors publicly expressed dissatisfaction with Reddit’s decision. It is reflected in the one-star rating in 91% of Reddit’s U.S. iOS reviews during the initial phase of the protest.
Sensor Tower has also carried out research on the acceptability of the Apollo app. Notably, the findings indicate an increase in downloads of the said app – presumably a response to the protest against Reddit’s new API policy.
With the controversy still unfolding, the future impact on Reddit’s reputation and user engagement remains uncertain.
Reddit, often dubbed the “front page of the internet,” finds itself at a crucial juncture as it approaches an IPO filing. Reddit is struggling hard to overcome competitive pressure and technological disruptions.