Reddit spins out, sort of

The community site moves up a notch in its owner's publishing food chain.

Reddit gets a measure of independence. Users joke about it. Par for the course. (Click image to enlarge.) Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

Reddit, the community-curated site that's picking up the pieces that Digg dropped, today announced that it's spinning out from the company that acquired it, Conde Nast. Sort of.

Reddit is moving up a notch in the org chart. No longer will it be a part of Conde Nast, which publishes among other things, Wired, Vanity Fair, GQ, and Ars Technica. Instead, Reddit becomes an independent company under Advance Publications, which owns Conde Nast.

By becoming a bigger wheel, Reddit General Manager Erik Martin (see his blog post) says, the site will be able to "go back into startup mode." He says, "We'll be able to innovate faster and get resources we need." Martin now reports to a new board of directors that includes Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian (his thoughts on Google+.). A search for a new CEO of Reddit is underway.

Martin says Reddit was getting 700,000 page views a day when it was acquired in 2006, and that it's now getting 1.6 billion page views a month (note unit mismatch; do your own math) on 21 million unique users.

Readers, Martin says, will reap the benefit of a new, unified reporting structure within Reddit. He pointed to accelerating the development of tools for moderators and for third parties that make products that work with Reddit.

There have been rumors that Conde Nast was considering a spin-out of Reddit, and while this maneuver would make that simpler, I don't think it's a likely outcome. Publishing companies are finding that there is a value in running aggregation sites, community sites, or curated content sites. See CNN's recent acquisition of Zite . By any name, they look similar to publishers who get from them new kinds of content for their users as well as new advertising vehicles. Sites like these are business diversification plays for traditional publishing houses, or more realistically hedges against the rapidly changing landscape of journalism.

The Reddit move also shows that it's possible for a startup to undergo a big post-acquisition change without TechCrunch-level drama. "We've been wanting to do this for a long time," Martin said, "but there was no revolt or uprising."

 

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