reddit than I probably should. For an Internet addict like myself, there's really no better resource for ephemera and offbeat articles -- and I cringe to think how much time I've wasted perusing the Ask Reddit and Ask Me Anything sections.
Smaller websites tend to find more success on reddit than the somewhat more famous Digg, so it's not surprising that a handful of webcomickers regularly submit their comics to reddit in hopes of finding a wider audience. Comics like Oglaf (NSFW) and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal can now expect a steady stream of traffic from reddit every time they post a new comic.
But dealing with reddit's active community can be frustrating. Reddit has a lot of great qualities, but many of its more vocal community members are shockingly misogynistic (and no more so than when someone points this out), politically rigid (Ron Paul being the favorite in the last presidential election), cynical to a fault, and will proudly announce that they "don't get" the appeal of something, as if it's the creator's fault for not tailoring it to their interests. The Comics and Webcomics subreddits tend to see the same comics float to the top over and over again.
And woe be to the creator who crosses the reddit community. Last week, there was a bit of a tempest in the comics subreddit's teapot when an anonymous poster revealed that members of Webcomics.com (a subscription-only website for webcomics creators) had a reddit upvote thread where members would upvote each other on reddit. Technically, this is a violation of "reddiquette," the rules redditors are asked to follow.
Okay, so first of all, I'm not a member of Webcomics.com, but it's kind of a dick move to post screencaps of a private website on a public one, especially over something so small. The anonymous poster could have just as easily sent the screencaps to the subreddit's moderators and let them deal with it. The poster apparently felt some personal ire toward Scott Kurtz, and the post seemed more about embarrassing Webcomics.com than fixing a problem in the reddit community.
As I've mentioned before, I used to run a social voting website, and I've found that violations like these are usually pretty innocent. People get super excited about promoting their content and sometimes they go a bit overboard. I'd guess that most -- if not all -- of the webcomickers in this thread had no idea that they were violating reddit's terms. After all, Digg has long legitimized so-called voting cliques with its "shout" feature. Plus, I'm not sure how much effect these voting cliques really have; reddit is a pretty sophisticated system, and I suspect that a bunch of voters coming from the same page would be canceled out.
Still, many (vocal) redditors were outraged by the revelation. How dare these webcomickers not realize that reddit is the most important site on the Internet? How could they not know the terms and conditions chapter and verse? What makes them think they can use reddit as a self-promotion and not engage with the community? Because really, who wouldn't want to engage with these lovely commenters?
Alright, kids. Lesson learned: just say no to voting cliques. But how do you get yourself some of that sweet reddit traffic? The short answer is that not everyone will. Some comics simply aren't built for reddit; it's yet another spot where long-form epic comics are at a disadvantage. Gag comics do better, although it seems to help if they're geeky, surreal, ribald, cynical, or somehow point out the irrationality of women. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule; I wouldn't have discovered Luke Pearson's gorgeous short comics if not for reddit. But it's telling that some folks go so far as to make comics specifically for reddit. Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal has basically built a business (and from what I gather, a rather successful one) around writing comics aimed at the Digg/reddit crowd. And then there's this post, which hits on the magic formula: boobies + talking about reddit = the upvotes.
Just because redditors have very specific tastes doesn't mean webcomickers shouldn't try to market to them. After all, redditors are missing out on some great content. I was encouraged to see someone submit a stand-alone single-pager from Octopus Pie, and even more encouraged to see it receive some nice attention. Sometimes, getting attention from reddit (and other similar sites) may be a matter of choosing the right page or coming up with a catchy title. And yes, it may also mean participating in the community, dropping comments in the "What webcomics should I read?" threads or just saying, "Hey, here's a comic I enjoy."
Whenever I come to the end of one of these rambles, I tend to come to the same conclusion: that's it's we readers, not just creators, who need to step up when it comes to marketing their favorite webcomics. Great content is great, but it doesn't always stand on its own. Sometimes it needs a little boost, and those of us who use social media sites like reddit should pipe up and talk about the comics we love.
Ugh, I guess I've talked myself into engage more with the reddit community. Thanks, brain.