Reddit’s mobile apps now let people view only visual posts, block ads through in-app browser

In a redesign of its mobile apps announced on Monday, Reddit will add an option for people to only view non-text posts, which could help its fledgling video advertising business, and support for Apple’s Safari View Controller, which would enable people to block ads on publishers’ sites accessed through Reddit’s iOS app.

The social network is also adding private messaging within its iOS app, which could pave a path to Reddit becoming a customer service channel for businesses in the same way that Twitter, Facebook’s Messenger and Facebook’s WhatsApp have or are trying to.

Theater Mode

Reddit is commonly associated with text-laden posts and comments. But it’s also a hotbed for GIFs and meme photos. Now Reddit’s apps for Android and iOS will let people choose to see the only the visual side of Reddit through a new feature called “Theater Mode.”

Reddit’s Theater Mode works similarly to the lightbox-style overlay that appears when tapping a post within Instagram’s Explore tab. When people tap on a post within Reddit’s app that contains a photo, video, GIF or other media element, that post will be enlarged and placed in a horizontal carousel of other visual posts from the corresponding feed or subreddit that people will be able to scroll through.

For now, Reddit will not insert ads among the posts shown in Theater Mode, according to a Reddit spokesperson. But it’s easy to see how that could change and why Reddit would want to change it.

Earlier this year, Reddit rolled out autoplay video ads to grab brand advertisers’ attention and ad dollars. Those video ads can easily stand out in a sea of text-based posts that may populate people’s feeds, but advertisers may prefer them to appear alongside other visual content because people in that context have signaled their intent in viewing visual content and may be more likely to be interested in the brand’s video ad. Additionally, displaying ads at full-screen, as with the other posts within Theater Mode’s feed as well as ads within Instagram’s and Snapchat’s Stories feeds, would boost the viewability of those ads and likely Reddit’s standing among advertisers that are increasingly mindful of whether their ads had a chance to be seen.

Safari View Controller support

The self-proclaimed “front page of the internet” also serves as a portal to other publishers’ sites through the links shared on Reddit. But now it may become harder for publishers to show ads to visitors coming from Reddit’s iOS app.

Reddit is switching its iOS app’s in-app browser to Apple’s Safari View Controller. As a result — and as is also the case for Twitter’s iOS app — content blockers that people have installed on their iPhones and iPads to disable ads, tracking cookies, autoplay videos and other content from loading on sites opened within Safari will now work on links opened within Reddit’s app. People will also be able to switch to Safari’s Reader Mode when viewing webpages through Reddit’s app, which will similarly strip those pages of ads.

As much as ad blocker support poses a con for publishers, Reddit’s adoption of Safari View Controller also comes with pros. Broadly speaking, it will make Reddit’s in-app browser function the same as Apple’s native Safari browser. That means people will be able to automatically fill out forms using AutoFill, making it easier for people to sign into publishers’ sites. And if someone is already signed in to a site on the native Safari app, that sign-in will persist in Reddit’s app, rather than forcing a person to sign in again to do something like view a page on a paywalled site.

Private messaging

Reddit’s iOS app will now let people send private messages to their friends the way they would through Twitter, Facebook’s Messenger and a host of other app-based alternatives to traditional text messaging. And like those other messaging services, Reddit’s adoption of private messaging could enable businesses to use Reddit to handle customer service inquiries. However, Reddit will first need to prove that people are interested in using its in-app chat feature and then add tools to make it easy for businesses to manage and even automate their conversations.

About The Author

Tim Peterson
Tim Peterson, Third Door Media's Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat's ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar's attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon's ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube's programming strategy, Facebook's ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking's rise; and documented digital video's biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed's branded video production process and Snapchat Discover's ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands' early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo's and Google's search designs and examine the NFL's YouTube and Facebook video strategies.