Reddit has unveiled plans to pay its top contributors cash for popular posts, starting in the US on Tuesday.
The social media site will split revenue with people who are awarded “gold” by other users, who pay a fee.
Gold awards will range in price from $1.99 (£1.63) to $49 (£40), with users receiving as much as half of that.
It marks a turnaround for the company since a backlash in June, when much of Reddit became inaccessible in protest of its senior management.
Ultimately, the majority of groups on platform returned – although some notable absences remain, such as the end of a long-standing subreddit dedicated to transcribing images on Reddit to make them more accessible for visually impaired people.
A subreddit is a forum within the Reddit platform – effectively a community of people who gather to discuss a particular interest.
Reddit users – or Redditors – will typically join a variety of subreddits, rather than following individual users on other platforms, and see posts from these communities in their feed.
Gold has been a part of Reddit for a long time, and was originally intended as a sort of virtual reward for posts or comments that people particularly liked.
A Redditor could pay a nominal fee to give another user gold, but this would have no real-world value and the fee would go to the upkeep of the platform.
It did, however, have the benefit of affecting how a person used the site.
At one point, if a user was awarded gold they could browse Reddit for a week without seeing any adverts. Later, there was a more expensive platinum award that gave Redditors a full month without ads.
Always believe in gold
The announcement has proved to be divisive on the social media platform.
Some Redditors expressed concern that it may lead to the site getting “substantially worse“, while others remain cautiously optimistic.
“I think Reddit had to find a way to reward its most valuable users,” said social media expert Matt Navarra. “To incentivise top creators, you need to provide opportunities for them to generate an income, either by paying them directly, or by giving them tools to generate an income from their fans.”
But he said there was a risk that incentivising people with real money could have an impact on the kind of content that gets popular on Reddit.
“X now rewards Premium subscribers with an ad revenue share tied to the number of impressions, or views, of ads a user generates in their tweet replies,” he said.
“This incentives X users to post content that sparks the most replies, and the characteristics of content that typically generates the most replies is content that is divisive, polarising, provocative, and controversial… exactly the sort of content that brands do not want to have their ads placed amongst.
“This has been problematic for Elon Musk, and it could become a new problem for Reddit’s founders too.”