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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Obama connects with millions of users on Reddit.com

If you could ask the president of the United States a single question, what would it be about? The economy? The presidential campaign? His favorite food?
Users of Reddit.com had just that opportunity on Aug. 29 when President Obama himself posted “I am Barack Obama, President of the United States—AMA” (Ask Me Anything). Approximately 1.6 million people from around the globe visited the website on that single day and viewed Obama’s responses.
Self-proclaimed “front page of the Internet,” Reddit acts as a content aggregator; users submit a wide-variety of links from around the Internet, ranging from serious articles on politics to images of cats with funny captions. 
The community, or “hivemind” as users call it, judges these submissions with either an “upvote” or a “downvote.” The overall popularity and ranking received by the submission is based on the total number of upvotes minus the total number of downvotes. 
Within the Reddit.com domain lies hundreds of “subreddits,” each dedicated to a particular topic. The “IAMA” subreddit dedicates itself to Q & A sessions with anyone with interesting story. Celebrities like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Larry King and now President Obama have participated along with everyday people like firemen and geologists.
In his brief 30-minute stay after a rally in Charlottesville, Va., Obama responded to just 10 questions. While this number may seem small, the sheer number of people trying to join in actually crashed Reddit and probably hindered Obama from answering more.
With his competitor, Mitt Romney, being labeled as unrelatable to the average American, Obama’s move to post on Reddit gained him plenty of favor and, as a result, more votes. According to Google DoubleClick Ad Planner, the median U.S. Reddit user is male, 25-34 years old, has some college education and makes between $0-$25,000/year.
With such demographics and large daily traffic, Reddit was the perfect “campaign stop” on the Internet for Obama to secure young voters’ support. 
Not only that, Obama’s post stayed on the front page of Reddit for a couple days, meaning  virtually everyone who uses Reddit on a regular basis as well as anyone directed to the site from media coverage afterwards saw it. 
Opponents of Obama may point to one of Reddit’s controversies, including Anderson Cooper’s public criticism of Reddit for having subreddits dedicated to extremely offensive material like pictures of dead bodies and child pornography. Such material has been banned since February 2012.
However, the overall positive image of Reddit has survived and probably expanded after Obama’s post. As to how Obama was convinced to do an AMA, the Reddit founders said on their blog that they worked for almost a year to get through the necessary channels to reach him. A few Redditors in the White House helped as well.
In a final update to his post before leaving, Obama praised the use of technology and the Internet to empower democracy and urged everyone to vote in November. As a final note, he described the Reddit experience as “not bad!” referring to a popular meme of him expressing approval and a caption of “NOT BAD.” 
If Reddit did not already love Obama, his use of the meme would have gained him much additional adoration. Not bad, Mr. President!
 
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