Reddit, the controversy-laden social media company, has become such a popular place for discussions on gaming, politics, pornography and celebrity gossip that it's now one of the five most-trafficked U.S. websites.
But unlike the other top sites — Google, Facebook and Amazon, Reddit has a diminutive business limited primarily to banner ads and promoted posts. The 13-year-old company is now trying to expand and is making an aggressive push to get advertisers on board.
In recent weeks, including at last month's Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, representatives from a half-dozen ad agencies told CNBC they've been pitched by Reddit within the past year about the company's plans to help brands target users. CNBC also obtained a 28-page presentation that Reddit has been sharing with advertisers, detailing the types of ad units the company is offering, with case studies from clients including Duracell, Toyota, Coca-Cola and JetBlue.
Reddit calls one of its new ad types a "top post takeover," which allows brand content to appear on the coveted front page. In the slide deck, it says companies can "own Reddit's most valuable advertising real estate for 24 hours. When users visit Reddit, your brand will be seen in the top ad slot in their feed and throughout the sidebar."
To date, the business side of Reddit hasn't been much of a focus. The company will top $100 million in revenue in 2018, according to two people with knowledge of its finances who declined to be named because the numbers are confidential. Reddit declined to comment on its financials. Twitter, which has about the same amount of active monthly users, pulled in $655 million in ad revenue during the first quarter alone.
Google, meanwhile, reeled in $95 billion in ad sales last year, and Facebook reported revenue of about $40 billion. Even Amazon, which gets almost all of its sales from e-commerce and cloud computing, has a much bigger ad business than Reddit, pulling in roughly $2 billion in the latest quarter.
For Reddit, luring advertisers makes perfect sense. The company has more than 330 million monthly active users and attracts upward of 18 billion page views per month. Its users comment on current events, share articles and participate in AMA (Ask Me Anything) interviews with celebrities and influencers. Microsoft founder Bill Gates held his sixth AMA in February, and 105,000 people voted the session up or down. Then-President Barack Obama held the most viewed AMA of all time, in 2012.
Zubair Jandali, Reddit's vice president of brand partnerships, said in an interview that his team has grown from eight people in 2015 to 90 this year, as more advertisers chase opportunities to reach the company's expansive audience, which has doubled in the past three years. Advertisers are coming to Reddit, rather than vice versa, he said.
"There are simply more users on the platform," Jandali said. "More communities are represented, and by extension there are more brands interested in working with us."