What the Reddit Blackout Means for Marketers

On June 12, 2023, millions of Reddit users logged on to find their feeds emptier than usual.

Over 6,000 subreddits, many with millions of subscribers, have gone dark in the wake of Reddit’s recently announced API changes

Application programming interfaces, or APIs, allow two different computer programs to “communicate” with one another. Reddit’s API enables third-party apps to interact with the website, allowing them to perform actions like retrieving posts, commenting and voting.

The planned blackout is a direct response to Reddit’s decision to charge high fees for API access, effectively eliminating many third-party apps that have long been an essential part of the Reddit ecosystem.

Why Are Reddit Users Protesting?

Here are a few reason some Reddit users are in opposition to the API changes:

  • Many third-party apps like Apollo, Sync and Boost are used to browse Reddit using a different interface preferred by some readers — and rely on API access to function. Different interfaces are also used by those seeking additional accessibility support; for example, the official Reddit app is not accessible for blind or visually impaired users. Limiting third-party API access effectively removes Reddit access for the blind.
  • Additionally, the API changes may make it difficult for subreddit moderators to watch over their communities. Many “mods” use third-party bots and automations to filter content, promote subreddit rules and keep their communities spam-free.

Subreddits came together to protest these changes by making their communities private and inaccessible June 12-14, with some vowing to never return.

“We are still offering free API access for developers under a certain threshold,” a Reddit representative shared with Goodway Group. “Reddit is in ongoing conversations with moderators to understand their perspectives and to minimize the disruption to users and advertisers as much as possible.”

These changes and vocal user backlash have raised questions about how brands and marketers can successfully engage with Reddit’s communities amid this uncertainty.

What This Means for Marketers

The Reddit blackout is a reminder to marketers that a one-size-fits-all approach to social media engagement and advertising is not recommended. Platforms like Reddit are built on the foundation of community and user-generated content, requiring a tailored approach reflective of sentiments on the platform.

Much like advertising on other social media platforms, tuning out isn’t an option. Rule number one is always to stay up to date on what’s going on with a platform.

During the blackout, marketing campaigns on Reddit will likely face difficulties — especially paid advertising. Brands and marketers must prioritize understanding the reasons behind the events, empathizing with users and adjust their strategies accordingly.

Goodway recommends budget liquidity between social platforms and, ultimately, digital channels. Similar to previous social platform occurrences, it’s important for brands to define how they align with the communities and platform stances.

Navigating the Current Uncertainty With Reddit

Here are some tips for marketers to adapt their Reddit strategy during the blackout:

1. Take a Step Back

While the impulse to address the ongoing situation on Reddit may be strong, taking a step back for a moment to understand the root causes of the blackout is essential. Evaluate the values and priorities of your brand and determine whether these align with Reddit’s community ethos before diving into the conversation.

2. Stay Informed and Alert

Keep an eye on Reddit’s official channels, as well as communities and subreddits discussing the blackout. Listen to user feedback and gain insights from the community’s perspective on the situation. Are subreddits in your niche participating in the protest? Knowing the answer to this question will help you make informed decisions about your marketing approach.

3. Engage Authentically and Transparently

Reddit users are known for their keen understanding of marketing efforts. Be transparent in your approach and engage in open discussions with users. Address questions and concerns about your brand sincerely and avoid excessive promotion. Remember the importance of organic engagement.

4. Rethink Content and Messaging

If you plan to continue advertising on Reddit during or following the blackout period, consider reevaluating your content strategy. How does your brand align (or not align) with Reddit’s values? Additionally, consider the frequency of your Reddit ads in light of many third-party ad blockers losing functionality.

Adapting Your Reddit Marketing Strategy

The Reddit blackout serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of community management and understanding user sentiment in the digital marketing realm. As Reddit’s move to charge high fees for API access has had a significant impact on both users and marketers alike, it’s critical to have a flexible and contextual approach to advertising and engagement on the platform.

Moving forward, marketers must adopt proactive strategies, empathizing with users while staying true to their brand values and upholding the essence of community-driven platforms like Reddit.

If you’re just getting started with advertising on Reddit or reevaluating your strategy, we can help. Our Expert Guide to Reddit Marketing Strategy is a great place to start.

Traci Asbury

Traci is a graduate of Kennesaw State University and brings years of industry experience excelling in marketing positions for brands and agencies alike. In her current role as the social arm of Goodway’s Center of Excellence team, she leads all social media efforts to excellence standards. She does this by improving and maintaining Goodway’s expertise within social buying and execution to ensure continuous improvements and a competitive advantage. With her deep knowledge and understanding of social platform buying and strategy and her wealth of experience managing social within the digital ecosystem, she knows how to leverage platforms to find success for brands of all types.