James Kotecki (00:08): 

This is CES Tech Talk. I'm James Kotecki, bringing you one of my favorite C Space Studio interviews from CES 2024. I had a lot of great conversations in Las Vegas, and I know you're going to like this one, so enjoy. 

James Kotecki (00:24): 

Welcome back from here at CES 2024. This is the C Space Studio Day 2 of interviews with marketing, media branding, and advertising leaders here at the world's most powerful tech event. I am James Kotecki. We are sponsored by Integral Ad Science this year, and we are so excited to bring you so many more conversations today, live on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and X, formerly Twitter, all those CES social channels. And if you're watching us live right now, hey, you've already found us, so just keep us right here. And joining me now is Reddit's own Mary Ann Belliveau, VP large customer sales. Thank you so much for joining us and talking Reddit with us this morning. 

Mary Ann Belliveau (01:03): 

Thank you so much for having me. 

James Kotecki (01:04): 

So I would say I'm a medium-to-heavy user of Reddit. Reddit is something I'm browsing probably every day. But for someone who maybe still hasn't gotten the memo, or maybe even just... It'd be interesting to hear. How do you define what Reddit is here as we head into 2024? 

Mary Ann Belliveau (01:20): 

Yeah. So I love to hear that you're a user. We have a lot of daily active users who really cover a broad spectrum of community interests. So we define Reddit as a community of communities. There are over a hundred thousand of them covering every topic you could possibly imagine and powered by people, powered by individuals, and in communities where they can upvote and downvote ideas where people are asking for a lot of different recommendations. Every second, two people are asking for recommendation and getting 19 responses. So it's like a really active community. It's not a community where you're putting out a question and there's nothing happening. So they're super vibrant. And I would say there's something for everyone. So my own focus group, I have three kids who are Gen Z, they love Reddit. They're a big reason why I work at Reddit, and I really care about them having an opportunity to be on a social media platform where privacy is core to our DNA, and then we respect user privacy. 

Mary Ann Belliveau (02:16): 

They have lots of typical Gen Z interests. We were talking before about coding and programming and art, and just culture and memes and gaming and the fun stuff. And then I think about my 83-year-old aunt, who loves to crochet, and so she can find crocheting communities. She follows woodworking communities. And she told me a story that I think is so indicative of the part of Reddit that's so special that a lot of people misunderstand, which is that when you're private and often anonymous, the communities tend to be super positive and supportive of the people in the community and encouraging. And so I think there's a misperception that when you're anonymous online that you'll be negative or that you'll be a troll, as opposed to when you're affiliated with your name. And we actually see the opposite to be true. We see that when people are private, are anonymous, they're super supportive and super positive and want to help each other solve problems. 

James Kotecki (03:18): 

Yeah, that's an interesting way of looking at community. I mean, I think if I talk to a lot of brands here in C Space Studio or at C Space generally, I think everybody would say, "Yeah, we're trying to build community. We're trying to build excitement and passion around certain things." And it seems like it can go a little bit deeper on Reddit for those reasons that you mentioned. 

Mary Ann Belliveau (03:35): 

It can. It can. And it also roots itself in factual problem solving as opposed to the drama. So that can be around it. So my son is in college, I'm on the subreddit for his college, for his university, and I am on another group at another platform for his university too. And the parents arguing about different things related to move in over here and drama versus the... Here's the facts, here's why it's different this year. Here's what's happening. Take a breath. It's okay. It's happening on the subreddit. Kind of tells you a lot of what you need to know about some of the differences in the way the communities function. 

James Kotecki (04:14): 

And that's so interesting because in both situations we're talking about communities of people, maybe even, I mean, it sounds like you. I mean, obviously, you're in the same two different groups, maybe other people are in those two groups as well. And it sounds like what's interesting is, there's may be different cultural norms or even technological choices that one can make when designing these community platforms. In Reddit's case, anonymity being one of those choices that can actually make a really big difference in the way that people behave. I mean, as I said, I'm on Reddit, and it does feel like there are some kind of cultural norms here. Is that also a part of it? Is it a bit of a... Is it self-policing to an extent? I guess culture is such a hard thing to define, but certainly Reddit undeniably has it. 

Mary Ann Belliveau (04:55): 

Yeah. Well, I think we're all part of communities in real life too. And every community that you're part of has a certain etiquette and a way that people treat each other. And I think on Reddit, we do see the communities have a certain etiquette. We have human moderators who keep that in check as well. And then, over the past few years, we've bought three companies, focus on AI and machine learning to help us give our moderators better tools to make sure that they're doing a good job moderating. And then also on the business side, to help us serve ads to people at the right time, at the right message in ways that aren't intrusive or in ways that aren't relevant to them. So we're here at CES talking about the key to context. So the key to context for us is that there's amazing context in these communities, and we have very actively new audiences, and you can advertise in a really powerful way without collecting all the data, without invading people's privacy. And we're really focused on doing that, and we're really proud of the work that we're doing. 

James Kotecki (05:57): 

That phrase key to context reminds me, when you go on Reddit and there's maybe a question in the original post or there's an article, and then the top comment actually has maybe the most insightful piece of information. They often say the real answer is in the comments on Reddit. And that's part of that community. 

Mary Ann Belliveau (06:13): 

That is part of the community, and that's the beauty of the upvote is that the community decides what's valuable by upvoting and downvoting. And so you don't have to read through potentially every comment because the best comment has been voted by the community and will rise to the top. 

James Kotecki (06:30): 

So, do you think when you're in these spaces with your fellow brand and advertising and marketing folks, forward-thinking people, thinking about technology and what's next? Do you really come at it from a different perspective because of these different choices and the way that Reddit is set up? I mean, I'm speaking here in the C Space Studio with other folks about the depreciation of cookies and the inability to track people online anymore, and how is that going to change the way that advertising works? And in Reddit's case, maybe it doesn't need to change as much because you already have these communities built around kind of a different framework. 

Mary Ann Belliveau (07:00): 

Yeah, I mean, I think we say Reddit was born for this moment, and I've worked at other companies as well. I've worked at Google, I've worked at Twitter. What really drew me to Reddit at the stage of my career is the ability to be part of this really special mission where we are really focused on privacy and we can make it work and to show that the signals are strong and the signals that matter can really help brands connect with the communities in a great way where they're looking for these answers, they're looking for recommendations, they want to hear from people. We know a lot of people append their search queries on Google with Reddit because they want the answer from a person. They don't want the answer necessarily from a content aggregation source. They don't want to go to like, "Oh, what's the best mattress to buy?" 

Mary Ann Belliveau (07:47): 

It's rough if you're just looking through the search results, but if you go to Reddit, you're going to get human beings talking about things over time also, because it's been 18 years, we have over 16 billion posts that it's one of the largest repositories of human conversation that exists over extended period of time. 

James Kotecki (08:07): 

So a brand comes to you, not involved with Reddit right now but wants to be, what advice do you give them? Reddit, often, I mean, advertising on Reddit often shows up as kind of posts that maybe it says that they're sponsored, but they kind of show up in the feed with other things. So what advice do you give them if they want to be playing in that space? 

Mary Ann Belliveau (08:22): 

Sure. So it is in feed the advertising for the most part. We have trends. We have other large formats for some of the advertisers, but when we talk to the advertisers about being on Reddit, it's more about who's your audience? Who do you want to be in front of? And then we help them with their creative messaging. Sometimes they'll use creative that comes from another platform, and it works perfectly well. Sometimes we'll help them with our Karma Lab team create bespoke content for Reddit or do something more unique, like an ask me anything or a mega thread where they can really go deep. 

James Kotecki (08:54): 

Are there ways to do Reddit wrong? Things that you steer people away from? 

Mary Ann Belliveau (08:58): 

I mean, I think we definitely are consultative sellers with our partners in terms of saying things like, "Hey, you wouldn't want to interrupt a conversation on Reddit." So you can appear in an ad on a conversation page, but you would be more prescriptive and specific about if you wanted to answer a question and you don't want to be... You just want to make sure that you're doing it in a way that people would be receptive to. 

James Kotecki (09:25): 

You don't just jump on the thread, what's the best mattress? I'm a mattress company. Let me just write my own mattresses- 

Mary Ann Belliveau (09:28): 

Yeah. It's not the time to maybe stick in something like that. However, if you are understanding who your audience is, you make sure your ad is in front of the right people at the right time. 

James Kotecki (09:38): 

So, as last CES was also about human security, how technology can kind of help humanity, and what does Reddit think about that? How do you think about Reddit's role in that overall project? 

Mary Ann Belliveau (09:49): 

It's so powerful. It's what really drew me to the platform because I think that the community aspect of problem solving is huge, right? So we see really amazing stories. There was one, I think the other day in one of the makeup and skincare subreddits where there was a trans woman who was autistic who was looking for makeup recommendations for an interview, and the community came together to give her tips, to give her guidance. I think that's one example of helping someone feel more comfortable in an important life process. But we have subreddits for every condition, healthcare condition, treatments that people are going through, and so people are able to get recommendations from a community that if you just are diagnosed with something, you're obviously not part of that community. So you become part of this community. 

James Kotecki (10:40): 

That's a great point. If you're diagnosed, you're maybe scared and you don't know where to go- 

Mary Ann Belliveau (10:43): 

Yeah. And you don't want to be become maybe part of a community with your health, but it's the fastest way other than your neighbor or your friend to call you and say, "Hey, I know someone who went through... Well, here you have all these people that went through it that can help you," and that's making a big difference. 

James Kotecki (10:58): 

Mary Ann Belliveau of Reddit, thank you so much for joining us today - 

Mary Ann Belliveau (11:01): 

Thank you so much for having me. Good luck. 

James Kotecki (11:02): 

Thank you. 

James Kotecki (11:04): 

Well, I hope you enjoyed that conversation from CES 2024. That's our show for now, but there's always more tech to talk about. Hit that YouTube subscribe button, leave a comment, follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, iHeartMedia, or wherever you're getting this show, and get more CES at ces.tech. That's C-E-S dot T-E-C-H. I'm James Kotecki, talking tech on CES Tech Talk.