77 - Roxy Young, Reddit

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This is a podcast episode titled, 77 - Roxy Young, Reddit. The summary for this episode is: <p>In Ep. 77 of Earned,<strong> </strong>we’re joined by Roxy Young, Chief Marketing Officer at Reddit, the mega-popular discussion forum that’s home to thousands of digital communities, aka Subreddits. We start the episode by hearing what’s on the horizon for Reddit, including its goal to expand beyond English-speaking geographies, before learning what drew Roxy to join Reddit back in 2017. Next, Roxy breaks down Reddit’s main revenue stream—advertising—and explains why Reddit’s varied, vibrant communities drive so much value for advertisers looking for their target audience. We then discuss examples of how brands have successfully activated communities on Reddit, as well as the challenges associated with managing open discussion forums. Roxy shares how Reddit continues to strengthen its relationship with creators—in this case, community moderators—via roadshows and feedback sessions, and we explore how Reddit has maintained its “brilliantly absurd” personality amid rapid growth. To close the show, we ask Roxy about her secret sauce for joining mega-successful companies early on (including Netflix, Sephora, and Hipmunk), and she reveals her personal favorite Subreddits.</p><p><br></p><p><strong>In this episode, you will learn:</strong></p><ol><li>Why community is at the heart of Reddit</li><li>How advertisers tap into Reddit's passionate communities&nbsp;</li><li>How Reddit fosters relationships with its creators (aka moderators)</li></ol><p><br></p><p><strong>Resources:</strong></p><ul><li><a href="https://www.reddit.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Reddit</a></li></ul><p><br></p><p><strong>Connect with the Guest(s):</strong></p><ul><li><a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/roxyyoung/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Roxy Young’s LinkedIn</a></li></ul><p><br></p><p><strong>Connect with Conor Begley &amp; CreatorIQ:</strong></p><ul><li>Conor’s LinkedIn -<a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/conormbegley/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> @conormbegley</a></li><li>CreatorIQ LinkedIn -<a href="https://www.linkedin.com/company/creatoriq/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> @creatoriq</a></li></ul><p><br></p><p><strong>Follow us on social:</strong></p><ul><li>CreatorIQ YouTube -<a href="https://www.youtube.com/@TribeDynamics" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> @TribeDynamics</a></li><li>CreatorIQ Instagram -<a href="https://www.instagram.com/creatoriq/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> @creatoriq</a></li><li>CreatorIQ TikTok -<a href="https://www.tiktok.com/@creator.iq" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> @creator.iq</a></li><li>CreatorIQ Twitter -<a href="https://twitter.com/CreatorIQ" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> @CreatorIQ</a></li></ul>
Reddit’s mission and what to expect from them in the next 2 years
02:16 MIN
Why community is not a buzzword at Reddit
01:49 MIN
How advertisers tap into Reddit communities
02:53 MIN
The challenges of managing the speed of culture as a community forum
02:46 MIN
How Reddit Strengthens Its Relationships With Creators
04:18 MIN
How Reddit works with the creator community
03:39 MIN
Maintaining a brand personality like Reddit
03:53 MIN

Conor Begley: Reddit is one of those silent killers that you really don't pay attention to, and then you look and you're like, " Wait, they have 2, 000 employees. Wait, they're valued at$ 6 billion. Wait, they're one of the largest social networks in the world." And I think Roxy has a lot to do with that transformation, as well as maintaining that edge that they've always had. Remember, if you like the show today, be a friend. Tell a friend. Thanks guys.

Speaker 2: Explore the minds and marketing strategies behind today's winning brands and businesses. Tap into the power of the creator economy with Earned by CreatorIQ. Here's Conor Begley.

Conor Begley: Hi everyone, and welcome to Earned. Today I've got Roxy Young, the CMO of Reddit on the show. Welcome to the show, Roxy.

Roxy Young: Hello, and thank you for having me. It's great to be here.

Conor Begley: Yeah, I am so excited to have you on, and so impressed both with your personal background, as well as with the background of Reddit over the last few years. I mean, it looks like, I think your head count's up 124% year over year, close to 2, 000 employees, valued somewhere in the what, five, six billion dollars? It's kind of crazy to look back on my perception of Reddit from five or 10 years ago to today, how much it's grown in stature. Quietly, in a lot of ways. It's really cool to see.

Roxy Young: I agree. It is cool.

Conor Begley: I guess you could claim a little bit of credit for that, right? You had something to do with the positioning of the brand there?

Roxy Young: I hope so. I definitely hope I can claim credit. But it's been a very fun ride.

Conor Begley: We're going to get into a bunch of your background. I'm going to dive in there. Before we do that, maybe let's just talk about Reddit for a second. So what are the plans of the next one to two years? What are you guys hoping to accomplish? What's the long- term mission, vision, et cetera? How do you think about that?

Roxy Young: So I have been at Reddit for five years and 11 months. So in April, I will have been at Reddit for six years. And it's been just such an amazing time to really understand and harness the power of our communities, and chart a clear path forward so that Reddit can live up to its full potential. Our mission is to create community and belonging for everyone in the world. And we have so many exciting things on the horizon to help us work towards that mission, and help bring that mission to life. And so I think there's three key things over the next 24 months that you will see us focus on. I think the first thing is helping people understand the breadth of communities that are on Reddit. Sometimes when you think about Reddit, you may think about, oh, it's the place where people are talking about video games, or people are talking about stocks, or cryptocurrency, but there's over a hundred thousand communities on Reddit, and there is truly a home for everyone. And so I think making sure that people understand, from plants to parenting, from cats to cartoons, there is a community for you on Reddit. I think the second thing is expanding outside of English speaking geographies. Reddit has been around for almost 18 years, and has a very strong user base in English speaking countries, United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom. And over the last few years, we have started to expand growth beyond English speaking markets. And we can't bring community and belonging to everyone in the world if people around the world can't use Reddit in their local language, and don't have communities that are locally relevant for them. So seeing us expand into non- English markets. And then I think the final thing, making Reddit simpler and more intuitive. Reddit has been around for a long time, and I think for a product like Reddit that has evolved over the years, and also been in several different phases of the internet, the pre- mobile phase, the mobile phase, I think there's a lot that we can do to modernize and simplify, and make it welcoming and accessible to all different kinds of people around the world. And so I think you'll see us focusing on breadth, expanding markets, and just creating a simpler, seamless, more welcoming experience for everyone.

Conor Begley: It's funny because I think in some ways, as you grow, the number of shiny objects increases.

Roxy Young: Yeah.

Conor Begley: Like, " Oh, we could do this," or, " Oh, we could do that." I just sat in a four hour meeting talking about all the new things that we can do. And I think what was interesting that you said there is simplification, which is odd to say when you're at your size and you're growing at your rate, it's like, well, why would you simplify? You can add more. Why take away? Is that pretty core to why there was such a big resurgence of Reddit? Is that something that's really important to Steve and team, or how do you guys think about simplicity and focus?

Roxy Young: At the core of Reddit is community. Reddit is nothing without its communities. People start communities, people moderate communities, grow and invite people into these communities. And so when we think about what do we need to focus on, we need to focus on things that make communities vibrant, easier to moderate, easier to join and be a part of. And so I do think that you're right. I think a lot of times there are shiny new things that are coming down the pike, and we can't lose sight of the fact that if we're not making our communities easy to moderate, then people won't start and create communities on Reddit. If we're not enabling people to participate and contribute to communities, then we won't have these lively discussions. And so while there's always new formats, new technology, that are very alluring, we always have to think about is our roadmap filled with things that are going to, at their core, enable communities to be healthier, vibrant, welcoming, and easy for people to participate? And so we always think of things through that lens of, is this going to help us make communities better on Reddit?

Conor Begley: You can tell that you guys say, " Community," a lot internally as an organization. In a lot of ways it's like, I can't remember who it was, but it's some famous management leader who basically said if your team can't recite, " These are our three priorities," within every single person in the organization, they don't know what the number one thing is, is a really big problem. And it's pretty clear that that's not a problem for you guys, which is good.

Roxy Young: Yeah, I think if there's one thing that we've done really well at Reddit is we have all bought in to our mission of creating community belonging and empowerment. And I do think that you're right, community isn't just a buzzword to us. And I do think that it has become a word that has become incredibly popular for us. It's not just a buzzword. This is our whole product. Our whole product is that we are a platform for communities. We are a community of hundreds of thousands of communities. And so it is at the core what we do.

Conor Begley: So I want to take a step back. I mentioned earlier this reboot concept, but when you joined Reddit, it was going through a fairly big reboot. I'm assuming, just based on what I can tell, that you came over because of Steve Huffman who was at Hipmunk, and was one of the co- founders, and came back to be CEO. I'd love to know what attracted you to join Reddit early on at that time. And then second, what do you think has led to this resurgence over these last six years during that reboot period? What has led you guys to this tremendous growth, particularly recently?

Roxy Young: So I'll first tell you the story of how I connected to Steve and he came over to Reddit, and then I came over. I still remember this very vividly. In July of 2015, it was the day after the July 4th holiday here in the US, my phone kept ringing and ringing. I was with my family, I had taken a vacation day. And finally I answered, and I didn't know who it was. And I picked up the phone and it was Steve, and he had called to tell me that he was leaving Hipmunk, and he was going to Reddit to become the CEO. And I was leading marketing at Hipmunk, and that included communication, so I needed to be in the loop, because we were likely going to get questioned and needed to start preparing for what we were going to say about Steve's departure. And the first thing after he shared the news that I said was, " I am so happy for you, and I'm so happy for Reddit, and Reddit needs you." And so as much as I was sad to not be working with him at Hipmunk, I knew that in that moment, Reddit needed a leader like Steve, one of the co- founders of the company, to come and set a new vision, and chart a new era for Reddit. And he absolutely did that. He jumped in and went right for some of the hardest things that Reddit needed to tackle. Establishing a relationship with moderators, revamping the content policy, taking Reddit into the mobile world. Reddit didn't have a mobile app at that time. And so he went on to Reddit and we kept in touch. I was an avid user of Reddit, and Reddit played a big role in my life. I got a lot of information from it. I don't think I considered myself a Redditor, but as I look back, it was like, man, I was making purchase decisions, and I was being really influenced by communities on Reddit. And so we kept in touch, and eventually I joined a few years later, in April, 2017. And I've thought a lot about the last six years and how things have unfolded. As you've mentioned, we've grown a lot. The company has changed a lot, and I would break it into, I think, four different eras. I think 2015 to 2017, and Steve was cutting back to Reddit. I think it was really the era of just assessing the opportunity that was ahead for Reddit. I think we all knew that Reddit had this amazing, passionate user base, these communities that were self- organizing on Reddit. And so I think in that era, we were just thinking about what is this opportunity, and how do we really want to channel and harness the opportunity? We oriented the company around a really clear mission statement that put community front and center of everything we're doing, and it really helped guide the focus and where we took the product. We finally launched a mobile app shortly before I joined, and then that was a big step forward in terms of capitalizing on the momentum. And then I think the next phase for Reddit was the monetization phase, really establishing the foundation for us to become a commercially viable business. We brought on a COO, a VP of ads, product and engineering. We did our first ever desktop redesign. Reddit really looked like a V1 Craigslist style experience, and we modernized that. We made significant updates to our content policy so that Reddit could be a safe place for users and for advertisers. And from a marketing perspective, we built out the marketing team, so that our sellers could be more efficient when they were talking to brands and businesses about how they could use Reddit to grow and achieve their goals. And then I think from there, we've just been on a path to continue scaling. Scaling the business domestically, scaling the business internationally, and harnessing the power of our communities to do that.

Conor Begley: I think in some ways, one of the bigger challenges as the CMO at it Reddit is I think there was some stigma to... it's a little bit Wild West in terms of the communities, right? It could be a little crazy. And so two questions. How did you make it more appealing to advertisers? And then two, I actually have almost no understanding of how Reddit actually makes money. What are the revenue splits? How do you guys just actually pay your bills?

Roxy Young: Let me start first with that second question, which is, how does Reddit make money? So Reddit makes money through advertising. That is our primary revenue stream. And the reason that we're able to do that is because we have these incredibly vibrant and passionate communities. And in those communities, people trust what's happening. They're talking about brands, they're making purchase decisions. I was just sharing that Reddit's very influential in my life. I make a lot of decisions. I bought a car based on what the community was saying last year on Reddit, my first electric vehicle. And so Reddit is where you will find the people that are relevant, your target audience, where they are finding community, where they are forming opinions, and where they are taking action. And so our whole business model is, we give a place for these communities to flourish and to thrive, and then we allow advertisers to tap into these communities, so that they can achieve their business goals. And we have so many fantastic examples of advertisers across all different categories, tapping into the Reddit communities so that they can achieve their business goals. Whether that's more foot traffic, or more leads, or more downloads, or more subscriptions. So many different kinds of brands and businesses have tapped into Reddit's passionate audience to achieve their business goals. So that's how we make money. And so the reason that that's valuable for advertisers is, if you think about a world in which it could potentially be a cookie- less future, and you may not be able to target every single user based on all of these very specific demographic cuts, if you know what someone is interested in, chances are you can find an audience that aligns with your product or service. I just mentioned that bought my first electric vehicle last year. And you may not look at my demographic makeup and think that I'm the exact right audience, but I was in electric vehicle communities for over 18 months, and that was a great place to reach me with a relevant message that potentially I could take action on. And so we have all of these communities, they align with people's interests, and advertisers can identify the interests that map back to their product or their service, reach them on Reddit, and see great business results.

Conor Begley: What's interesting for me about Reddit in general, outside of the advertising that brands can do, is this idea of two- way dialogue and interaction with those communities.

Roxy Young: Yeah.

Conor Begley: So one of the best marketers I know was looking at the numbers one day, it's a long time ago, and he's like, " Man, see, we were getting a lot of traffic from Reddit. What's happening here?" Right?

Roxy Young: Yeah.

Conor Begley: And he went in, we were really heavy in the beauty industry at the time, still are. He would look into these makeup artist communities. There's just so much happening in there. Now, obviously you can't go in and just post a bunch of advertised, like, " Hey, check out my brand," but they ended up doing customer service. They did feedback. They would get to know their top Redditors, get to know the moderators, take them out for dinner, drinks.

Roxy Young: Yeah.

Conor Begley: Send them free product, all this kind of stuff. Is that something that you've seen other brands do? What are some of the best ways that people are interacting with the communities outside of pure advertising?

Roxy Young: Great question. One of the most common things that brands and businesses ask us is exactly that. Which is, okay, I understand that you have an advertising product, and through advertisers you can get scaled reach with consistent, predictable performance. And that's great, but what are the other things that we can do to build a relationship with communities on Reddit? And so there are several different things. Just a few weeks ago, I was on Reddit and there's this cult cleaning product called Bar Keepers Friend, I'm going to have to try it now. But they went on to Reddit and they said, " Hey, we're the marketing team at Bar Keepers Friend. Here's a little bit about our products. Ask us anything." And AMA is a very common format on Reddit, where people will come into Reddit and they will open up a conversation. That's why people are on Reddit. They want to engage about things that are interesting to them. And so Bar Keepers Friend came and they said, " We're the marketing team. Here's a little bit about us. Ask us anything." And they proceeded to have a very high quality conversation with people on Reddit. And so that builds evangelism, it builds trust. To your earlier points, they weren't just trying to sell, sell, sell, or market. They really wanted to share the history of the company, share the philosophy around the products, share the efficacy, answer people's questions. And so I think that honesty and that authenticity goes a long way with people on Reddit, in terms of being able to build a reputation for your brand. Just a few other examples. There was a cosmetics company that had a batch of products that just the formulation was off. And for whatever reason, the product was getting a little bit moldy, it's an all natural product, sooner than people were expecting. So people were on Reddit, and they were commenting about the fact that they had spent money, they had bought this product, it was going bad before the expiration date. And the CEO came in and answered their questions, and said, " Here's the reason why. All of our products are natural. We changed the formulation. Here's what's happening. Here's what you do, and we will give you a replacement product with our newest formulation, and this isn't going to happen." And that company just earned so much credibility and loyalists, because of just how honest they were. We see examples like that all the time. Fidelity Investments, which people know Fidelity. And I think that stock trading and finances has just... it's become so top of mind for everyone over the last few years. We were at home in the pandemic, and there were a lot of people who are day trading, or following alternative forms, like cryptocurrency, and they wanted to be part of the conversation. And so they said, " We would love to come in and just offer credible financial advice when it's appropriate." And so I do think that there's great examples of brands who will build a relationship with the community in an authentic, honest, and conversational way.

Conor Begley: Yeah, let's talk about that for a minute. Because I think some of the things you're hinting at is you saw wallstreetbets become a very large community at the time, and get involved in all kinds of surprising interactions with other financial institutions, right?

Roxy Young: Yeah.

Conor Begley: And so I have to imagine that you're not in control of what's happening here. Just like the other platforms, you don't have control of what's said.

Roxy Young: Yeah.

Conor Begley: And that's part of the nature of the platform. But what are some of the challenges associated when you are dealing with something that can get very volatile, or very unpredictable, or that can become so culturally important, like wallstreetbets?

Roxy Young: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Conor Begley: What are the challenges of managing that?

Roxy Young: I personally think it's the best part of working at a place like Reddit. One of the buzz phrases in marketing over the last few years is, " You need to move at the speed of culture." Which I always thought was kind of funny, if you're making toothpaste or socks. But if you work in a place like Reddit, you are really moving with the speed of culture. And so I think first and foremost, communities have to adhere to our policies. And so we want there to be a home for all different kinds of communities on Reddit. But communities need to abide by our policies, or else there's not a place and not a home for them on Reddit. And so I think to your question around what is that like? How do you manage it? We have a content policy, and our communities need to abide by that policy if they want to have a home on Reddit. That being said, there are always really interesting communities that are having deep discussions that we're following and we're monitoring. In 2021 wallstreetbets was really showcasing the power of community, the power of the collective, of people coming together, taking a collective action, and having a real world impact on the financial markets. And they weren't doing anything wrong. That was the modern day version of the Neighborhood Investment Club, it was just happening online. And so people were coming together and taking action, and we were seeing the impact of that. But I think we're monitoring regularly every day, every week we're monitoring what's happening on Reddit, which communities are growing, what's happening in them. We have a team of people who are always monitoring, and evaluating if communities are aligned with our policies, and we take action if appropriate. But I do think it's one of the most fun and rewarding aspects of working at a company like Reddit, is that we are, in fact, moving with the trends that are happening in culture, and in many instances really shaping and shifting that culture as well.

Conor Begley: Yeah, a hundred percent. So obviously the name of our company is CreatorIQ, right? So we're in the creator business. And I think what's interesting about Reddit and the Reddit communities is they are creators, just a different kind.

Roxy Young: That's right.

Conor Begley: They're not traditionally on Instagram or YouTube or Twitter, but they're often getting just as much attention, and can be just as critical to the success of Reddit. We talked about how do we manage our moderators. So how do you think about compensation for that group? How do you think about investing in that group from a relationship management perspective? What are some of the tactics that you guys use to build your own community, in terms of their relationship with Reddit, not just their relationship with their own community?

Roxy Young: One of the things that I think is most interesting about Reddit as it relates to creators, is that on most other platforms, it's about the individual. I'm Roxy Young, and I go on this platform to show these exciting places that I'm going on vacation, and what I'm eating for dinner, and my thought provoking things that I want to share with the world. Whereas on Reddit, if there is a community that is about Roxy Young, which there's not, and there's no need for one, it's usually the fan community. So many creators have fan communities on Reddit, which is really interesting. And they engage with those fan communities in different ways. So that's one aspect of how Reddit and the creator world intersect. But to your second question around how do we build relationships with our quote, unquote creators, which are the people who create communities, the moderators, this is something that we have been evolving since I've been at Reddit over the last six years. And there's a couple of things that we do. I think the first thing is we have these community values. And this is different than, I work at this company, and these are the values that, as an employee, I need to embrace and follow. These are community values, which is a shared set of values with our community, in terms of how we act, and how we operate, and how we build products that can enable them to have healthy and vibrant communities. And we shared these a few years ago with our communities. We built them in partnership with some of the leaders of these communities, we shared them with our communities. And so we've got these five values that align the communities and Reddit. And so these principles are basically a common language in terms of how we operate. And there's things like keep Reddit real. We always want to be a place where we can enable real authentic conversation. Privacy is a right. We want to be really respectful of not taking more information than we need, so that people can feel comfortable sharing and not having to worry about Reddit needs all this data and how is it using it? We also reach out and just say, Hey, we're going to do a mod roadshow, and we want to visit you in wherever location you're at. A few years ago, we did 12 different locations, and we went and we met moderators, and we talked to them on their home turf. And we asked them about the things that they need so that we can help them be more successful, and opened up that dialogue. As we moved into COVID, we've now taken that into a virtual world so that moderators all around the world can participate. We have a really fun team that is focused on what we call MEOWs, which stands for Moderator Enhancing Opportunities and Wins. And they're just focused on creating wins for moderators. And we make it really clear to them, here's what we're doing and here's what we're working on for you, and building that relationship. And then lastly, we do make a point to give them access and visibility, and let them know what's happening, what's going on. Steve was just recently traveling and connected with moderators in London and in Paris. And having that access and getting that dialogue is just a great way to let them know that we're listening. We hear them, we see them, and we want to do what we can so that they can have amazing, healthy, vibrant communities.

Conor Begley: What's really interesting when I think about Reddit, and the way that you describe it, and just again, my own perception, is it's different. It's kind of quirky. I mean, your listed characteristics are eclectic, brilliantly absurd, but mostly it just has a personality.

Roxy Young: It does.

Conor Begley: The brand has a personality. And I think I've always been personally jealous of brands, because it's like, man, I wish my brand was funny and fun and interesting. No offense to our brand, but we're heavy on the data side. We're just a heavy technology company. How do you think about maintaining that personality of the brand? How do you do that?

Roxy Young: Yeah. Let me tell you a little bit about our brand traits, how we came up with them, how do we use them, and how do we maintain them as the company continues to get larger, and it expands internationally. So several years ago when I joined Reddit, we sat down in a room and we put all of the examples of things that have happened over the last 10 years. And we put them on a wall and we looked at them and we absorbed them. And it was very clear that from the start, I think thanks to the founders of Reddit, that there was a tone, there was definitely a tone and a style in how we communicated to our community. And when we started to distill what were the common traits about the style and tonality of our communication, we said, well, it's candid. It's very eclectic. We're incredibly self- aware, and there's just this brilliant absurdity to what we're saying. And we wanted to make sure that no matter how large we got, we didn't want to lose the essence of who we are, and the essence of our brand. And we recognized that that was just such an important part of people's connection with Reddit. They were on Reddit and they're in these communities, but they also felt this connection to the brand and this style and tonality with which we communicated with the broader community. And so the way that we keep this alive is that every time we are writing up a brief about a program or a campaign, we use these traits. And we filter the ideas around is this idea hitting on candid, eclectic, self- aware, and brilliantly absurd? Are there areas where we could dial this up so that it can be uniquely Reddit? And a couple examples. In 2020, we launched this campaign. It was right around the time of the election, it was a campaign focused on voting, called Up The Vote. And we took the silliest posts on Reddit, and we said, this picture of a steak that is shaped like the United States, the United Steak of America, got thousands and thousands of votes on Reddit. Imagine what these votes could do in the real world. If you vote on Reddit, you can vote in real life. Up the vote. And so we just took this brilliant absurdity and said, we're going to compare something that's so crazy and absurd that people voted on Reddit, and juxtapose that with how important it is to actually cast your vote in the real world. And so we do live and breathe these traits so that we can keep our brand alive, and unique, and distinctly Reddit. I think one of the challenges as we look to the future is making sure that these elements of the brand translate into other cultures and languages, in a way that is appropriate. And so I think that's something that we're embarking on now, and learning how do we fine tune and adjust these, as we continue to expand Reddit's reach around the world.

Conor Begley: Yeah. I mean, that's the hard part, right?

Roxy Young: Yeah.

Conor Begley: You want to appeal to more people, but in a lot of ways, the more that you try to appeal to everybody, the less you mean to anybody, right?

Roxy Young: Yeah.

Conor Begley: It's a challenge. I think you guys will figure it out.

Roxy Young: I hope so.

Conor Begley: So just looking at your personal background. So you were at Netflix in 2005, which was a long time ago, in terms of very early in the Netflix days.

Roxy Young: Very long time ago. I have to remind people that it was back when we were sending DVDs in the mail.

Conor Begley: Exactly. And then sephora.com in'07, which was early, early e- com days. Zynga very early, then Hipmunk which was early. And then Reddit, although it wasn't early, was going through a fairly big reboot, right?

Roxy Young: Yeah, it was.

Conor Begley: Those all sound like kind of crazy companies to join at the time that you joined them. What is it that attracted you to those kinds of companies? And then you've had a marketing role within all those companies, or at least I believe so, what is it that you think that's different about managing the chaos? What are the approaches there that work well?

Roxy Young: I get asked this question a lot, because people are like, " Can you see something about these companies that you've decided to join early?" And so I've thought a lot about it. And the common trait when I think about each of these companies, and why I decided to join them at the point that I did, was they were focusing on making things better and easier for consumers. And it might have been in a different space, in a different vertical, but they were so laser focused on this. And that as a marketer, and as somebody who is always thinking about the consumer, this is what attracted me to each of these different companies. And so I'll break down a couple different examples. So at Netflix, if you think about how you were renting movies prior to Netflix, I mean, most people, if you're younger, you won't remember this, but I remember this, you would go to a Blockbuster or Hollywood or whatever the movie rental store was, and you would walk around, and you would find maybe one movie, but it probably wasn't the one that you wanted to watch.

Conor Begley: It's always the worst. When they'd have the-

Roxy Young: It was, right?

Conor Begley: You could see it's there, but there's no box, right? There's nothing.

Roxy Young: That's right.

Conor Begley: No box.

Roxy Young: It's just an empty box. It's like the empty box, it's not available. And when you think about it, it's like, gosh, that was such a horrible experience. And then you'd forget to return it. And so then you'd end up$ 3 movie would cost you$6, because you forget to return it.

Conor Begley: More like$ 28. Yeah.

Roxy Young: Or one of those. Yes.

Conor Begley: Yeah.

Roxy Young: And so at Netflix, they were just revolutionizing this really poor consumer experience, and putting this different model on it. And it was scary. It was like, give us your credit card, and build a queue, and then we will mail you what's in your queue, and then you can keep them as long as you want, and you can return them to us. And it was like, oh my God. It was just this totally different model, but it was focused on, we've got the selection. You can get what you want, you can keep it as long as you want. And so I was so intrigued by what they were trying to do to really make things simpler and easier for consumers. And then at Hipmunk it was very similar. If you think about the process of booking travel, it's not very fun. It's filled with all these pop- up ads, and it's very, very focused on price. And Hipmunk had this beautiful and elegant user interface that was focused on something called agony. Which is, if you're going to spend all this money to take a flight, or stay at a hotel, don't you want to reduce the potential for agony that could mean a layover? That maybe you save$ 20, but you've got a four hour layover and there's a high likelihood that your next flight is going to be canceled. And so it was taking travel, but using this filter that was very consumer oriented. How can we make travel less agonizing? And so nobody had ever thought about framing it that way for the consumer. And so when I think about, oh, what are some of the choices that I've made? I think some of the commonalities are, companies that are identifying a pain point for consumers, and trying to create something that is differentiated and better with the consumer in mind. And I think some of the things that contribute to success in these early stages is having a team of people that's laser focused on the mission, and making things better for consumers through the whole product experience. And so when I got to Reddit, I could see that happening. And you're right, it wasn't like it was day one at Reddit, but I think Steve came in and said, " How can we make this a better place for moderators, a better place for people who are participating in our communities?" And we were really laser focused on the mission, once we landed it. And so I think that is how you manage through some of that chaos in those early days, is just being really clear about what are you trying to do for the consumer, and then how does everything align back to delivering against that?

Conor Begley: Yeah. Yeah. It's funny, we actually don't do a good job at a leadership level of having that be our North Star. I think a lot of times it's like, oh, how are we going to grow revenue by X? Or how are we going to do... you know what I mean?

Roxy Young: Yeah.

Conor Begley: How are we going to... oh, there's this really big competitor that's doing really well, we can go do that.

Roxy Young: Yeah.

Conor Begley: The language is not about the user enough, right?

Roxy Young: Yeah.

Conor Begley: In helping them accomplish their goals. It gets pulled back to it sometimes, but it's not good enough.

Roxy Young: Yeah.

Conor Begley: I love that advice.

Roxy Young: One of the things that we just recently started doing when we're doing our quarterly look forwards, is we'll talk about, Hey, here are the things we want to accomplish this quarter. Many of the things you highlighted, how much money do we want to make? How many advertisers do we want to have come onto the platform? How many users around the world do we want using Reddit? But then the other thing that we do is we have this section around what is meaningfully going to change for people who are using Reddit? For advertisers who are using Reddit, for moderators who are using Reddit. And we have to share screenshots. What does it look like now? What is it going to look like by the end of the quarter in 90 days? And I think that's really helped us develop empathy and a perspective for these numbers and the tables and the charts, are sometimes not as easy to tease out what's actually changing for people. And so I think this gives us a really good forcing function to be accountable for what's going to change, what is meaningfully going to change when people are touching and using our products.

Conor Begley: Yeah, a hundred percent. Well, let's do one fundament end of show question, because I think I've used up more time than I probably should have already. So you've listed outoftheloop and dataisbeautiful as some of your favorite communities. Are those still your favorite communities, or do you have new ones today that you like? And which of those do you think you share the most with your friends? Which one is the one that you send the most links to?

Roxy Young: I definitely send a lot of posts from dataisbeautiful. I love seeing how people just do the funniest and most interesting things with data. I'll give you some of my absolute favorites from dataisbeautiful. A few years ago, somebody took it upon themselves to test the battery life of eight different brands of AA batteries. And then they charted out, they put it all in the same flashlight so it could be normalized and standardized. They took this standard flashlight, same AA batteries, and then they just left it on, and timed it. And so they had this incredible graph of the same battery, with eight different brands of battery, and which one actually had the longest life. And it was so creative, and it's one of those things that you're always wondering, should I buy this battery or that battery? And I was like, oh, I can go back to this post and realize, well, somebody already inaudible.

Conor Begley: Else, what was it? Which one should we buy?

Roxy Young: I don't ... I think it was Energizer. I think it was Energizer. And then another funny one is people love buying the hot dog combo at Costco and somebody charted, what would the price of the hot dog combo be if it was adjusted for inflation? I think it would be over$ 4 now. But they never change the price. It's one of the things that keeps people coming back. And so I was like, okay, it's a very fun dataisbeautiful post to see what should the actual price of the hot dog combo at a Costco be?

Conor Begley: There's a funny anecdote, I think it's from a year or two ago, and it was like the current CEO of Costco talking to, it was either the founder or former CEO, whatever, I think he was the founder, talking about raising the price of the hot dog. He's like, " We got to do this. This is crazy." And the founder goes, " I will effing kill you if you raise the price of the hot dog. On the record, I will lose my mind." And it was just like, " What?" Is that's kind of funny. At some point, I mean, it's like who really cares? It's such a small percentage of their profits.

Roxy Young: It is. Definitely.

Conor Begley: If has any effect on membership, and any effect, it's like, you go, you buy the$1. 50 hotdog. They should probably be$ 4, but then you spend a thousand dollars at Costco. Like, it doesn't matter.

Roxy Young: inaudible. That's right. That's right. And we're here talking about it today. So it is something that people talk about. And yes, they can take a few dollar hit on that.

Conor Begley: They should probably give away a hotdog every time. Just give it away. Like, who cares?

Roxy Young: Yeah. Yeah.

Conor Begley: It's like... Anyways. Well, I really appreciate it, Roxy. It was great getting to know you, and I'm so excited that Jen connected us. And congrats on all the success at Reddit, it is really impressive to watch. And excited to see where you guys go over the next couple years. Keep keeping quirky.

Roxy Young: Well, thanks so much. I really enjoyed the conversation. Thanks for having me.

Conor Begley: Awesome. Bye, Roxy.

Roxy Young: Bye.

Speaker 2: Be a friend, tell a friend and subscribe. Earned by CreatorIQ. CreatorIQ is your all- in- one solution to grow, manage, scale, and measure your influencer marketing program. Ready to unlock the power of the creator economy? Get started with a demo today at creatoriq. com.


In Ep. 77 of Earned, we’re joined by Roxy Young, Chief Marketing Officer at Reddit, the mega-popular discussion forum that’s home to thousands of digital communities, aka Subreddits. We start the episode by hearing what’s on the horizon for Reddit, including its goal to expand beyond English-speaking geographies, before learning what drew Roxy to join Reddit back in 2017. Next, Roxy breaks down Reddit’s main revenue stream—advertising—and explains why Reddit’s varied, vibrant communities drive so much value for advertisers looking for their target audience. We then discuss examples of how brands have successfully activated communities on Reddit, as well as the challenges associated with managing open discussion forums. Roxy shares how Reddit continues to strengthen its relationship with creators—in this case, community moderators—via roadshows and feedback sessions, and we explore how Reddit has maintained its “brilliantly absurd” personality amid rapid growth. To close the show, we ask Roxy about her secret sauce for joining mega-successful companies early on (including Netflix, Sephora, and Hipmunk), and she reveals her personal favorite Subreddits.

In this episode, you will learn:

  1. Why community is at the heart of Reddit
  2. How advertisers tap into Reddit's passionate communities 
  3. How Reddit fosters relationships with its creators (aka moderators)


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