A group of superstar investors from Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel to Snoop Dogg are investing $50 million in Reddit--the unique news, sharing and discussion site that attracts over 100 million users each month. Those users are going to be happy about the new investment--Reddit has innovative plans to reward its userbase with equity in the company, a rarity. (Imagine if Zuckerberg gave you equity every time you posted on Facebook.) The Reddit move is a page right out of Jaron Lanier's provocative book Who Owns the Future?
Reddit calls itself the "front page of the Internet" and one look at the site tells you how big the Internet really is--that's a lot of front pages. Redditors are a highly engaged participatory audience opining on everything under the sun. Reddit still operates like an old school bulletin board that's as information rich as it is unwieldy--just the way its users seem to like it. So change--which is what the $50 million is for--will need to come carefully. That's why it's so smart to include the userbase as partners--stakeholders--in the success of the site. The new goal will be to make it friendlier for the uninitiated while continuing to live up to its "front page" nickname. Reddit earned that nickname during its first nine years because what happens on Reddit rarely just stays on Reddit--what's posted there often explodes into the national dialogue.
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