Compete.com’s and Alexa.com’s numbers are far from gospel, but they do offer an excellent comparative indicator for traffic. Looking at the traffic estimates and trends for Reddit and Propeller, it’s very conceivable that Propeller will overtake Reddit for the #2/#3 (depending on whether you consider StumbleUpon a social news website) position behind Digg amongst the social news powerhouse websites.
For a long time, Netscape was technically #2 in traffic, but most acknowledge that this was misleading. Many people typed in Netscape, not realizing it had become a social media website. Other sources sent traffic to Netscape, but only a small percentage used it for it’s news-based purpose. When the move to the new Propeller.com URL was announced, many believed that it spelled doom for the once-proud alternative to the Yahoo! and MSN homepages.
(I apologize for the poor screenshot, but if you click on the image, it will take you to the current comparison between Propeller, Reddit, and StumbleUpon)
Propeller has been a success. Whether it has been a financial success will be determined by AOL’s accountants and analysts, but it has exceeded expectations in traffic. On the other end, Netscape has seen a significant drop, but not as sharp as projected. Netscape has been losing readers since December, 2006, so the Propeller move was seen by many to be a desperate last-ditch attempt to offer the homepage that many expected from Netscape and still keep the social media traffic through Propeller.
While Reddit still maintains possibly the strongest social media platform in terms of sheer user loyalty, its growth, which was constant from inception, has started to show signs of leveling off since Propeller was launched. Are these trends related? We think so. Is Reddit doomed? Of course not. The loyalty of the members is still tremendous. A “cleaning up” of the homepage may be in order, but there is a huge catch-22 with that.
One of Propeller’s biggest advantages over Reddit is that it is “pretty”. The layout is more appealing to newcomers, offering an easy-to-understand interface and a professional newstype appearance. Those who love Reddit are, for the most part, perfectly happy with it’s straightfoward style. “Here’s the headlines. Read them, then vote.” No pictures, no spotlight sections or detailed descriptions. Eight categories from which to choose. Simplicity.
If Reddit were to change to appeal to newcomers, would they lose their base support? Most would probably say yes. I say no. Deep down, the users of Reddit love the algorithm, whether they know it or not. They appreciate it for the way it moves stories up or down based solely on the up-mods and down-mods of the users. Judging by the changes (or lack thereof) in the recent Reddit updates and overhauls, I would venture a guess that they don’t subscribe to this opinion.
Reddit will rebound. It will grow. The question is, will it grow faster than Propeller?
CenterNetworks has a piece on this very topic. You can read it here.