Monday, March 21, 2011

Wild rumor: Conde Nast thinking of granting independence to reddit?

According to the Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital, Conde Nast is considering a spin-off of reddit.

This is the first I'm hearing of it, and it's being denied by the current admins, but I hope there's a grain of truth to the story.

Spinning reddit off would be a brilliant move, a total no-brainer. There are exactly zero synergies between reddit and any other Conde Nast property, and the site gains nothing from Times Square oversight. In fact, it would flourish even faster and more fully if freed from the policies that have been strangling it for years. ("Why does a site with a billion pageviews a month need more than one salesperson?" "What do you mean you want a $200 SSD hard drive? Anna Wintour gets by without one." "You want the company to pay airfare and hotels for your programming candidates? No way; just hired a perfectly good web designer without having to do that.") And imagine the motivating power of employee equity, which would actually be possible if reddit were an independent company.

The part of the rumor that makes no sense is where the Newhouse family is supposedly going to be selling big chunks of this spun-off company. In my time at reddit, I had extensive direct and indirect interaction with people named Newhouse, and I quickly learned that they're the only ones in suits who actually get it. The Newhouse family make for great reddit ownership... as long as they keep it as far as possible from people like this.

Executive summary: Spinning off reddit is a great idea, but selling it is the last thing you should do. No; keep reddit, and find some sucker to unload the rest of Conde Nast on.