From www.wired.com

Reddit’s stock market debut expected on Thursday has been a long time coming. The ad-supported home of over 100,000 forums first announced its intention to go public in December 2021. Over the course of the unusual years-long delay, Reddit revised its initial investor pitch 10 times, leaving a trail of edits that provide a look at the company’s past struggles, current vulnerabilities, and future ambitions.

The many drafts show how CEO Steve Huffman dialed back warnings that too much content moderation can be “autocratic,” and that he and other Reddit leaders culled priorities for the company as pandemic-fueled growth waned. Here are seven takeaways from a close reading of the submissions.

Video U-Turn

Reddit is known for hosting text-based discussions, but its initial paperwork to go public claimed the platform’s relatively new live video and audio chat room services were core to its drive to win more users and advertisers. “We’ve learned time and again that whenever we add new surface areas of creativity on Reddit, that users not only use them, but they use them in ways that are surprising (and delighting!) to us,” the pitch said.

Reddit had drawn inspiration from streaming platform Twitch and the pandemic audio chat hit Clubhouse for what it called r/pan, or public access network, and Reddit Talk. Reporting in WIRED’s recent deep dive into Reddit’s past and future found that the company sank considerable resources into the two projects. Some of the more than 60 current and former Reddit workers and moderators contacted for that story described the tools developed to police bad behavior on the video and audio services as inadequate. (Advance Magazine Publishers, owner of WIRED’s publisher Condé Nast, owns a roughly 30 percent stake in Reddit.)

Reddit over the past two years shut down both r/pan and Reddit Talk, in part due to their moderation challenges, WIRED reporting shows. By the end of last year, mention of live video and audio had been purged from Reddit’s IPO pitch.

A CEO Who’s Sorry—But Not That Sorry

Reddit’s 19-year history has been a roller coaster of scandals over unsavory content, abrupt leadership changes, and user revolts. In earlier versions of the IPO paperwork, current CEO Huffman struck a contrite note. “The list of our mistakes over the years is long, and so is the list of challenges we’ve faced,” he wrote. “We lived these challenges publicly and have the scars, learnings, and policy updates to prove it. Our history influences our future. There will undoubtedly be more challenges to come.”

But Huffman, who cofounded Reddit back in 2005, also boasted that Reddit is different because it is “free from the airbrushing and filters of social media” and criticized what he sees as over-the-top meddling in online discussion. “Centralized, paternalistic, or even autocratic control—from a company or a government—not only does not result in the human connection, authentic conversation, and community engagement that we think people want, but often backfires,” he wrote in one draft. In another he added a warning that “pressure to compromise Reddit’s democratic nature to conform to mainstream views” could be destructive. None of Huffman’s lines about Reddit’s mistakes or his concern over control made the final cut. Reddit declined to comment, citing an IPO-related “quiet period.”

Signs User Growth May Be Stalling

The number of people visiting Reddit’s site or app each day is increasing. That’s helped by a surge in traffic triggered last year by the platform forcing apps that provided alternative ways to view posts to start paying to access Reddit content. Many of them shuttered, and although some users staged an online blockade, many have adopted Reddit’s official apps to maintain access.

But some of the user figures reported by Reddit suggest its growth could be stalling. The company’s IPO papers have said since late 2021 that over 500 million people visit at least once a month—but nearly three years later the figure cited hasn’t grown.

Some current and former employees say Reddit may have upgraded its measurement tools, suggesting the earlier figures may not have been accurate. Reddit’s latest IPO filing says daily and weekly figures are how it measures growth. The company grew to 76 million daily users in December and has continued growing this year, it says.

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The post Reddit IPO Filings Reveal the Company’s Hopes—and Fears first appeared on www.wired.com

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