April 28th, 2008

Editorial: Is Oregon Reddit being used to its full potential?

Oregon RedditAs is probably exceedingly obvious, there’s one thing I try to do everyday: Get Oregon’s Web-startup scene the recognition it deserves.

Granted, mine is a small voice, but I do what I can.

One of the ways I’ve found to help get some of this cool stuff out in front of a wider audience has been working with OregonLive Oregon Reddit, as both a submitter and an active participant.

To date, I’ve found the service a valuable means of helping put what you’re doing on the virtual front page of The Oregonian, if only for a brief time. And, undoubtedly, garner exposure from a much wider and diverse audience than the existing Silicon Florist reader base.

But, this morning, I noticed the image above. No stories. And it got me to thinking. Either the staff was working to tweak the algorithm or—worse yet—there were actually no stories submitted.

Which, as much as I like the potential of the service, brings me to the drawbacks to Oregon Reddit:

  1. Participation is exceptionally low for a social media service
  2. Due to low participation, political stumpers tend to downvote other stories in favor of getting the latest Merkley or Novick post on the front page
  3. Even though it should be a vehicle to get other publications on the site, the stories that tend to get the most attention are stories that are from The Oregonian or OregonLive staff, already

That said, Oregon Reddit isn’t by any means broken. In fact, it’s working exactly as it should. The majority of the users vote down stories they don’t want to see and vote up stories that appeal to them.

The problem is that the user base of Oregon Reddit is too small, not very diverse, and generally working with an ulterior—if not paid—motive. And that makes those votes largely irrelevant.

So, here’s what I’m asking you to do: participate.

I would much rather receive 100 downvotes that help me understand what kind of content readers are seeking. Or split of 50 up and 50 down that help me determine when a story is appropriate to submit to Oregon Reddit.

Some may say that Oregon Reddit isn’t the answer at all. That another locally focused news service would help garner this kind of feedback. I’d love to come around to that argument—if the potential for Oregon startups getting the recognition they deserve from a wider audience is just as high as it is with Oregon Reddit.

Long story short, I’d rather get completely negative feedback, than little to no response on the stories I submit.

Maybe the stuff I write isn’t interesting at all. Maybe it’s only interesting to an incredibly small subset of the population.

But I would like to know that. I simply don’t have the data points to make that determination.

I mean, other than the fact that the Merkley and Novick folks hate my writing.

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12 Responses to “Editorial: Is Oregon Reddit being used to its full potential?”

  1. Jmartens says:

    Part of the problem is that Reddit is associated with the Oregonian/OregonLive! If it were independant of that crappy paper, then maybe you’d see more usage.

  2. My thoughts on Oregon Reddit:
    - nobody knows it exists… well, until now, of course :) I’d never heard of it until it started sending traffic to VanPortlander
    - It’s associated with OregonLive, which instantly makes folks cringe.
    - There’s no way anybody is going to find it, or figure out how to use it, unless they know what it is and know where to look.

    I’ll go through phases where I look at it daily, then I’ll hit a dry spell. I guess I should go submit this post, eh?

  3. Another problem: The content is about 1/3 of the visible page. The rest is OregonLive chrome or advertisements. Ugh.

    Quite the opposite of Reddit itself, which is fantastically content-centric.

  4. Since I hate Oregonlive with an allconsuming passion (long drawn out story but most of you who dislike wouldn’t be surprised at the details in the story) I’m willing to host an alternative and even develop it and publicize it if someone can think of a good name. On top of that I’d be willing to try and make it use openID so new users wouldn’t have to go through registration hoops.

  5. Julian says:

    “To date, I’ve found the service a valuable means of helping put what you’re doing on the virtual front page of The Oregonian, if only for a brief time.”

    This is the actual problem. Unlike Digg, Reddit, and other social linking communities, the point of Oregon reddit is not to be in (and participate in) the reddit section; the point is to make it to that front page of Oregonlive.

    When the post is put on the front page, it is just a link to a website. So, the main goal(s) of this social network is to leave the social network.
    People who are participating are mostly there to make it to the un-social front-page and then have the OregonLive readers leave the (small) connection that link has to the reddit page and Oregonlive completely.

    This will obviously only change if the number of users greatly increases and adds more functions of a social networking platform (groups, interests, etc). This might happen, but I think it is highly unlikely.

    It may seem natural for those of us is the twitter/digg/slashdot/reddit/friendfeed, etc echo-chamber to embrace such a place. But, I think the vast, vast majority of people on OregonLive want their traditional Oregonian articles and have no want of participating in that network. Those of us who do participate in such networks have so many other and better avenues and little need to participate in that one.

    I already subscribe to a good percentage of the people who post there, so I am seeing mostly the same titles/posts I have already seen with added newstainment from the traditional media. I think that this is true of a lot of “participants”. Therefore, without strong community features–which are likely to not be used anyway since we are all talking/viewing/reading on other ones already–it will continue to be exactly what it is, a traffic generator plus broadened exposure for those that make it to the front page of Oregonlive.

  6. Rick Turoczy says:

    I think my primary issue is the fact that there is a very large audience—for right or wrong—that visits the OregonLive site on a regular basis.

    That audience is not the astute, intelligent, and well-groomed audience that regularly visits Silicon Florist. ;)

    But I still want those folks—en masse—to hear about all of the cool stuff happening with Web-startups here in the Silicon Forest. What’s more, myopic or not, I think what many of the startups here are doing are, in fact, newsworthy.

    I think it’s the sheer girth of the audience I find so attractive for being rife with wasted potential. And that’s the one thing that a new site, without voracious, expensive, and continued promotion, may never have the hope of attracting.

    That said, I’m totally willing to give that try if others are game. I’d much rather be promoting a resource (like I currently promote Oregon Reddit) that was more beneficial for the greater social media good.

    P.S. Love seeing all of the OpenID comments. Wahoo!

  7. Jmartens says:

    we need something a little less commercial than Oregonlive.

    so in a shameless bit of self promotion, if someone wants to help clean up the look a bit we can use http://portland.goboz.com/news which is all ready set up in a similar way.

  8. Christian says:

    I like the Oregon Reddit – I’ve found some really fascinating stuff on there (as well as submitted a few of my noteworthy blog posts on there). But I’ll agree – it’s not being used to its full potential. And I think it just has to do with the small userbase! I love Reddit – I go there everyday. But believe you me, I’m sure that social media site would confuse people. Digg, eh, it’s a little easier… there’s a big “Digg this!” call to action instead of an up & down arrow.

    And I’ll agree – there is some gaming involved (particularly with the presidential stories magically having a lot of votes and others down to 0 or even in the negative realm). I’ll vote down stories I find not interesting but also NOT OREGON / SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON related. If I want something other than Pacific Northwest news… I’ll go somewhere else, thank you very much.

    That being said, it’s an active community… though a small one. If they keep on incorporating into the site and getting the name out there, I think it’ll just keep on steadily growing little by little.

  9. Other bit of info: I’ll vote down anything that comes from the oregonlive.com domain. I figure they ought to be able to promote their own stuff on the other 99% of the website, and that the reddit section should be for non-OLive content.

  10. The traffic to OregonLive is absolutely astounding and getting a link from the front page, any link, is a gigantic traffic boost.

    The problem of downvoting was pretty bad when they only had one item on the front page; now they have two, and it got a bit better, but at the same time, it became more popular.

    If the goal is to foster a community, then they’re completely failing. The goal, I think, is to give more reasons for people to go to oregonlive so they can see local self-published content.

    The traffic boost from a front page oregonlive link is huge, and so of course the system is going to be gamed, and of course it’s not large enough to actually work with the reddit system.

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