one of the most annoying things about social news sites is that because the content tends to be skewed heavily towards the preferences of the early adopters and the core users, it can be very difficult for newcomers who don’t subscribe to the same preferences to enjoy the sites. as a result, many of the newcomers end up leaving the site. in an effort to curb this problem, reddit has updated their algorithm to normalize the ‘hotness’ of the stories promoted to the front page of the site.
what this means is that you will start seeing more content on your front page from smaller reddits. we did this to give the smaller reddits that you are subscribed to a fair chance of getting displayed. if a particular link is very hot within its own reddit, it will now be very hot on your front page as well.
the situation before we made this change was that the more popular reddits (e.g. reddit.com and politics) would wash out all the other content.
i’ve witnessed the problem many times. one of the things that prevented me from getting passionately involved in reddit was the fact that 95% of all content seemed to be very political. in the new system, people who enjoy that content can keep reddit the same by only subscribing to the politics reddit whereas the people looking for more diversity can change their subreddit subscriptions to reflect that.
we’ve been experimenting with a similar idea at propeller for a while. we had the same problem, where a majority of our content would be politics-only and the other channels weren’t getting the attention they deserved, so i understand reddit’s problem and love the solution that they have come up with. this type of customization along with a robust recommendation engine are two of the most important elements that social news sites need to work on if they want to break out of the niche and gain mass appeal.