Reddit is the self-proclaimed front page of the Internet -- a community of people who submit links and vote them up or down based on their quality, novelty or general ability to generate amusement.
But does Reddit really have enough users to make that claim?
On Wednesday, the Pew Center’s Internet and American Life project released a study that put Reddit under the microscope to see who’s frequenting the site. The results: About six percent of American adults online said that they’ve visited Reddit.
Though not a staggering number, but it puts Reddit about on par with Tumblr, according to statistics published by the Pew in February. By way of comparison, Pew determined that as of last year 16 percent of American adults online use Twitter and 67 percent use Facebook.
The analysis of Reddit’s users offers few surprises to those who visit the site. Young men are the most likely to use Reddit. About 15 percent of male Internet users between ages 18 and 29 say they use the site, compared with five percent of women of the same age.
But the fact that Reddit is getting this kind of analysis at all reflects a growing awareness about the site. Reddit, founded in 2005 by University of Virginia classmates Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman and sold to Conde Nast in 2006, has seen a big jump in visibility in the past year or so.
While it’s still an online spot for simply finding something amusing — case in point: this intellectual joke thread that’s gone viral in the past few days — Reddit has also been used as a forum for political action and for tapping into the flow of online discussion.
Politicians and activists, for example, have used it to gin up grass-roots support — last year the site welcomed President Obama to participate in its regular (mostly) open question-and-answer sessions, which the community refers to as an “Ask Me Anything.” Reddit also got users’ attention in the wake of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Reddit users submitted their theories about the bombers after combing through images and footage of the marathon. While none of those particular leads led to the arrest of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, news outlets picked up on some of the theories and reported them as if they were genuine law enforcement tips.
All of which indicates that, for good or bad, Reddit’s on the rise. In a company blog post last month, the site reported 71 million unique visitors in May and said it was on track to hit 5 billion page views this year. Last year, the site reported about 2 billion page views for the year and 34 million unique views in a month.
While young men and, to a lesser extent, women are the site’s most dedicated users, the study showed that it’s on the older folks’ radar. The gender divide holds through all age groups, though overall usage drops off quickly the older someone is, Pew said. The study found that eight percent of men and five percent of women between the ages of 30 and 49 are using the site; those numbers drop to three percent and two percent, respectively, for those ages 50 to 64.
And, despite what you may think, there are some very plugged-in users over age 65 on the site — three percent of men in that age group also say they use Reddit, as do one percent of women.
The Pew study included 2,252 adults over the age of 18 who were called on landlines and cellphones between April 17 and May 19. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.
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