Spade digging
Credit: Thinkstock
Reddit is the self-proclaimed "front page of the internet", a platform which is increasingly being used by journalists to research stories or engage users.

Alan Rusbridger famously did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) in July 2013, which covered subjects including wikileaks, phone-hacking and marzipan.

Earlier this year, Reddit also began trialling live blogs for breaking news, such as this live thread on the conflict in Ukraine.

For those who are not familiar with the platform, Reddit works by allowing users to submit links to their own content or content elsewhere on the web which are then voted up or down by other 'redditors', with the most popular content gaining prominence hitting Reddit's much-coveted home page.

It is a format which former Guardian and New York Times journalist Benji Lanyado, who launched The Reddit Edit in 2012, describes as "the top of the crowdsourced pile".

Here he gives his tips for how journalists can use Reddit, alongside advice from Vice and Al Jazeera English.

1. To stay ahead of the crowd

Reddit is made up of various subreddits – threads which appeal to a specific topic or community.

Always go beyond the first hundred stories, keep digging if you really want to find somethingBenji Lanyado, founder of The Reddit Edit
Some are mainstream, covering subjects such as science, technology or world news, while others, such as /r/amateur_boxing, /r/veghumor and the surreal  /r/AnimalsWithoutNecks, are more niche.

These subreddits are a potential goldmine for journalists to find new and interesting stories to pursue before they are covered elsewhere, said Lanyado.

"I've always been interested in Reddit's power of surfacing interesting stories that I wouldn't have found otherwise," he told Journalism.co.uk.

"Often you see a lot of stories appearing in the British media within about 12 hours of appearing on Reddit. It's definitely something that always seems to be ahead of the crowd, certainly the editorial crowd."

He advised that journalists should "always go beyond the first hundred stories, keep digging if you really want to find something" when searching for original content on Reddit.

reddit1
Screenshot from reddit.com/r/worldnews

2. To gauge popular interests

The vast range of content featured on Reddit makes the platform a great resource for journalists wanting to determine the level of interest or opinion in a particular issue or topic they might be considering reporting on, said Lanyado.

"I think the absolute best use of Reddit for a journalist is as a kind of litmus test of where the internet stands on something," he explained. 

Though Lanyado noted Reddit was not an entirely level playing field for gauging opinion, due to the fact that "the vast majority of Reddit's users are probably quite left-leaning and liberal and libertarian," he added that journalists could gauge popular opinion around a certain topic, online at least, "just by looking at a couple of subreddits on the subject".

3. To engage users

One way Reddit can be used for engagement is in AMAs, where people invite other redditors to ask them anything.

Nazanine Moshiri, roving correspondent for Al Jazeera English, did one of the outlet's first AMAs from Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Though she admitted that opening yourself up to such public scrutiny was initially nerve-wracking, she said journalists should not feel anxious about not knowing all the answers to the questions they may be asked, because people were generally more interested in hearing about personal accounts and experiences.

"You can prepare a little bit by thinking through what the main issues are on the subject, but I don't think people are asking you questions just for you to give them facts and figures and soundbites," she said.

"I think they just want to hear what it's really like, your take [on something] and your thoughts."

4. To identify niche sources

Moshiri said that she now tends to use Reddit mostly for research into investigations or niche topics or to follow what her fellow Al Jazeera correspondents are saying.

She noted that the range of "niche" subreddits on the platform made it a useful tool for finding sources away from mainstream topics and issues.

"Our newsdesk do use Reddit sometimes to find witnesses or people who have an opinion on an issue," she said, adding that Reddit was particularly helpful for "finding experts on more obscure topics and investigations".

5. To get feedback

Vice began using Reddit to promote content and engage users through AMAs after realising the outlet already had a large fanbase on the platform.

It's a place where we know we can get a lot of very candid and honest feedback about the things that we're doingJonathan Hunt, Vice
Jonathan Hunt, global marketing director at Vice, said that another way the outlet uses Reddit is to get feedback on the content it creates and any changes to the design of its website.

"One of the main reasons why Vice is so enthralled with Reddit is that we understand Reddit is a place where our superfans exist, and as a community that has really been instrumental to the success of our content and the success of our brand," said Hunt.

"It's also a place where we know we can get a lot of very candid and honest feedback about the things that we're doing, whether that's the way we build our site and new products and series that we launch.

"It's a great sounding board."

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