Reddit announced today that it will begin phasing out its own in-house advertising platform and Doubleclick for Publishers in favor of Adzerk, a system used by companies like StackExchange and Stack Overflow. In a blog post, Reddit said the site will continue to serve ads, many of them images, in the right sidebar of posts, but Adzerk will now give users the ability to vote ads up or down, helping to train the system to better tailor its ads based on the user’s taste. (Though unlike user submitted posts, no karma is involved.)
If you downvote an ad, it will never appear for you again, and will give you the option of providing feedback to the Reddit team on how they can serve you better ads. A box will pop up, asking the user to pick a reason why they downvoted the ad: “uninteresting,” “misleading,” “offensive” or “repetitive.”
Reddit already began phasing Adzerk in to subreddits like r/funny and r/sports, and will soon roll it out to the rest of the site.
Jena Donlin, Reddit’s senior manager of business operations, wrote in the post:
Our primary goal is to make advertisements on reddit as useful and non-intrusive as possible. We take great pride in the fact that reddit is one of the few sites where people actively disable ad blockers. reddit does not allow animated or visually distracting ads, and whenever possible, we try to use ads as a force of good in our communities.
The ads that appear in the sidebar are different from Reddit’s self-serve ads model, which allows users to pay for links to appear in the “Sponsored links” section at the top of the page. These ads already allow users to up and downvote them.
Reddit has a long history of tweaking its ad model to fit with its growing audience while also remaining true to its anti-ad ethos. It stuck to self-serve ads for so long because they seemed the least obtrusive way to make money. Reddit also created a Reddit Gold subscription which users can buy in exchange for premium features, which helps bring in additional revenue.
“We’ve always been laggards when it comes to adopting online advertising because we never wanted to do anything to piss anyone off,” Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian told Ad Exchanger last year. “We engineered our sponsored headlines as a way to mitigate that, because it generates great money, but in an unobtrusive way where these headlines live among the content and they can be commented on.”
Reddit certainly likes to do things its own way. In January, AllThingsD reported the company is raising a $1 million angel round at a $400 million valuation. Rather than bring in institutional investors who might exert control, Reddit opted for a vanity round betting that Silicon Valley elite would agree to its terms.