Reddit, the 113 million-strong online community where discussions about quantum physics exist alongside NSFW photos, is entering a new chapter. After hinting for months at plans to increase its revenue and its mobile capabilities, the company launched a mobile iOS app for its popular “Ask Me Anything” content earlier this week.
The AMA format has become a runaway success story, with verified interviewees ranging from Bill Gates to a Disney princess performer. With its visual search cues and card-based design, the iOS app is clearly designed for Reddit newbies. But the arsenal of friendly typefaces and brightly colored icons are a significant improvement over the bare-bones look of the default web UI–a convoluted maze of nested nested text and GIF-related wit–that housed previous AMAs. The new design also prioritizes a more passive experience: users can ask questions and vote up comments in secondary areas of the app, but the homescreen defaults to streams of curated content.
For Reddit veterans, the app offers one significant improvement: Rather than scrolling through long threads of questions and comments, trying to pick out where the interview subjects have chosen to respond, users now swipe left or right to see “answered” questions versus “asked” questions.
“We want to make it easier for new users to join Reddit and experience all the awesome content,” said Ellen Pao, who runs business strategy and has overseen the company’s mobile projects, told Variety. “That’s part of the overall goal of becoming a more mature company.”
Part of becoming more mature likely means the app will help contribute to Reddit’s native advertising strategy, as AMAs attract Reddit’s largest and most mainstream audience, according to Variety. Over 6 million Reddit members follow AMAs, placing the the crowd-sourced Q&As consistently near the top of the site’s 7,800 active “subreddits,” interest-based front pages for up- and down-voting content.
The watershed moment in the site’s gradual evolution toward advertiser-friendly content arrived last year, with Barack Obama’s AMA–still the most popular of all time.
But in July, Pao admitted to the New York Times that Reddit is not “monetizing to the full extent that we could.”
So far, monetization efforts have been limited; Reddit operates a gift exchange and a premium membership tier, and sells advertisements. But the launch of a standalone AMA app signals growing aspirations on the part of the ad sales team, which has been hiring new staff since Pao came on board earlier this year.