The Reddit Protests Hit the Platform Hard With Daily Traffic Plummeting 7 Drop in Ad Portal Visits

Community moderators on Reddit took matters into their own hands earlier this month in response to the platform’s recent policy changes.

After Reddit announced that it will charge certain developers for access to its data, many found the move controversial. Reddit users responded with the “blackout” movement, causing the platform to briefly go down.

Once it returned, the so-called “front page of the internet” discovered that moderators who managed thousands of subreddits made their communities private and restricted.

As a result, the platform started seeing massive drops in traffic and ad portal visits. Daily traffic crashed by 7%, while the amount of time people spent on the site went down by nearly 16%, according to data collected between June 12 and 13.

Criticism of the platform by community moderators also led to a drop in visits to Reddit’s ad portal, which is used by advertisers to target specific groups and audiences with ads.

Data collected by Similarweb revealed that the average visits on Reddit went down to 7.16 minutes during the first two days of the protest.

Prior to the drop, the average time was 8.40 minutes. As for web traffic, it declined from 56 million to 52 million.

Why Did Reddit Decide to Start Charging Developers?

Reddit’s policy change arrived in April of this year when the platform announced that it would charge devs for accessing data using its API.

The idea was to restrict third parties from using Reddit data for building and training text-generating machine learning (ML) models, like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, for free.

Instead, the platform wants to sell the massive amount of data it wields to these AI-makers.

However, developers who used the platform’s API to build various other apps and bots that were actually helpful to Reddit’s users were also affected. One example is a popular Reddit client, Apollo.

It, and other similar apps, bots, and even researchers for noncommercial purchases, all found themselves struggling to pay the high cost required to access the platform’s data, resulting in such services going offline.

Subreddit moderators saw that this could mean the downfall of Reddit as they knew it, so they reacted in support of such apps and developers.

Analysts Recorded a Severe Drop in Traffic During Protests

Image Courtesy of Statista

Reddit’s user growth had already started to slow by the time to protests started but a 7% drop in traffic is still a massive drop for such a large platform.

After a few days of protest, the average time spent on the platform and its daily traffic improved compared to June 12 and 13. By June 23, the platform’s average visits returned to 8.37 minutes, with 55 million daily visits.

However, between June 13 and 23, Reddit’s ad portal saw average daily visits drop by 20%, going from over 16,000 to around 12,874.

David F. Carr, a senior insights manager at Similarweb, said that the dip in ad portal traffic suggests that advertisers are now less willing to conduct their business with the platform, at least while the protest is still underway.

Sensor Tower also shared data that revealed that the average time on Reddit’s mobile app went down 17% between June 12 and 13.

Session counts on the app also dropped by 7% on the first day of protests. Average time spent between June 12 and 14 dropped by 14%, while session counts for the same period were down by 8%.

So far, Reddit has not yet decided to revert its policies, so some subreddits decided to remain dark indefinitely. However, others started returning over the last several days, improving the platform’s stats. Sensor Tower’s senior insights analyst, Abe Yousef, said,

Despite a slight inflection in user engagement with the organized protest largely concluding on June 14, some popular subreddits still remain dark, which is likely weighing on a return for user time spent and sessions to pre-protest levels.

Reddit is Still Under Fire for its Decisions

Reddit moderators were not the only ones criticizing the platform for its recent decision. Many of the platform’s users also protested the change, likely because many of them use 3rd party apps to improve their Reddit experience.

Around 91% of Reddit’s iOS reviews in the US only gave one star to the platform in the early days of the protest.

Over time, the rating has improved somewhat, so one-star reviews dropped to 86% between June 15 and 26. The most common keywords in reviews included “Apollo,” “third party,” and “3rd party.”

Analysts also recorded a rise in Apollo downloads, which went up to 9,000 per day, compared to the previous average of 3,000 per day.

For now, analysts are still questioning whether the protests will force the platform to go back on its decision, or will it just weather the storm and the incident will be just another controversial moment in its history.

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