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Freewheeling Reddit Grapples with Ads

It’s not easy being the front page of the Internet. Just ask Reddit.

The news aggregator and Internet community has attained surprising fame lately as the go-to place to taste the zeitgeist of cyberspace. Its exceptionally loyal community and massive reach—5.3 billion pageviews last month—has attracted first-tier celebrities including President Barack Obama, and it’s now the source of countless stories that go viral on the Net.

The downsides, though, are numerous: The content is often wild and wooly, with separate sections, known as subreddits, devoted to topics including white supremacy and porn. The sometimes obstreperous, often libertarian-leaning “Redditors” who supervise the content can be hard to manage. The community detests censorship of any type—and doesn’t care much for advertising either.

Now the company is trying to do the one thing many longtime Redditors like the least: change. Or at least change just enough to  generate more revenue without destroying the freewheeling, user-driven culture that makes the site so popular. It's betting, in part, that it can convert the good will of its quirky customers into profits.

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“I think Reddit will survive just about any change just as long as [Redditors] feel like their voices are being heard and they’re not being censored.”