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Reddit is going to let you turn gold into money

Reddit is going to let users spin Reddit gold into real money as part of its new “Contributor Program,” the company announced on Monday. It also shared details on the replacement for its old Reddit Gold system that let users show extra appreciation for posts or posts that they liked.

Let’s start with the Reddit Gold update since it’s a critical part of that Contributor Program. Under the new gold system, you can long-press an upvote button on mobile or hover over it on desktop to be able to buy gold. Reddit will offer six different purchase options for awarding gold, starting at a $1.99 option to buy one gold and going up to $49 for 25 gold. After you give your gold, you’ll see what Reddit calls a “golden upvote” next to the comment or post.

The golden upvotes.
Image: Reddit

The previous system let you give a bunch of different awards in addition to Reddit gold, including awards custom to individual subreddits. But Reddit Coins officially went away as of September 12th, so you can’t use them to award gold under this new system.

I asked Reddit why it didn’t let people transfer over their coins to spend in the new system. “In the past, there were both paid and free coins that had been distributed, making it incredibly challenging,” spokesperson Tim Rathschmidt said. “After a lot of consideration, we determined it was better to start from scratch.”

Crucially, if you earn a golden upvote, it might contribute to your ability to earn real money from the Contributor Program. If you’re eligible for the program and go through a verification process, you’ll get monthly payments based on the gold and karma you earn on “eligible contributions.”

Here’s how Rathschmidt defines “eligible contributions”:

Gold can be given to posts and comments, unless they include sexual content, content with graphic violence, or feature certain mature themes (e.g., alcohol, gambling). In addition, gold cannot be awarded on content posted in a Not Safe for Work (NSFW), quarantined, or trauma support community. Similarly, content on a redditor’s profile page isn’t eligible to receive gold — you can only purchase it in communities, in feeds, and on the post page. 

Here’s how Contributor Program payouts will work, according to information Rathschmidt shared with The Verge

  • In the standard “contributor” tier, you’ll get 90 cents for every gold you earn. But to be able to cash out, you’ll need to have earned a minimum of 10 gold and received between 100 and 4,999 karma over a 12-month period. 
  • As a “top contributor,” you’ll get $1 for every gold you earn. To cash out, you’ll have to surpass that 10 gold minimum and earn more than 5,000 karma over a 12-month period.

To be eligible for the Contributor Program, you’ll need to be older than 18, live in a “supported location” (which at first is just the US), and your account will need to be in “good standing.” If you are eligible, the verification process should only take a few minutes to get through, Rathschmidt said. Both regular users and moderators can participate.

With the introduction of the Contributor Program, thanking a kind stranger for giving you gold takes on a new meaning. The system seems designed to encourage people to post quality content to Reddit (like the types of posts you use Google to search for) and potentially earn money for that work.

But I’m worried the system could change the culture of Reddit. Part of what makes Reddit so useful is that most great posts aren’t made with an expectation of payment, meaning that people share their expertise, a handy tip, or a funny joke just because they want to. That makes me trust them more. The carrot of real money for posts could change the site in a meaningful way; just look at the way X (formerly Twitter) has changed in part because of the annoying posts from verified X users trying to earn cash from its revenue-sharing system.

I’m also worried that bad actors might find ways to abuse the Contributor Program to earn a quick buck without actually making meaningful contributions. When I asked how Reddit might prevent bad actors from taking advantage of the system, Rathschmidt said Reddit will use things like internal safety signals, Know Your Customer screenings, gold purchase limits, user reporting, and audits by admins (Reddit employees). I also asked how Reddit will ensure moderators, who can set rules for posts in their communities, don’t game the new program, and Rathschmidt said that moderators who are eligible for the program will have to abide by the Moderator Code of Conduct and the contributor monetization policy.

Reddit’s new gold system starts rolling out on Monday, and it will be available on “eligible content” on Reddit’s native mobile apps in select communities, with more communities getting it in “the coming week.” The feature will be available on the web “later this year.”

The Contributor Program is also rolling out starting Monday, and it will be available on the web and Reddit’s mobile apps. You’ll be able to see if you’re eligible to be verified for the program by checking your profile.

Some Reddit users weren’t happy with the decision to drop the old Reddit Gold system, which added to frustrations over the company’s introduction of usage-based API pricing that ultimately made some major third-party apps shut down. While the protests across the site over the API pricing have largely died down, some users expressed their unhappiness toward CEO Steve Huffman during the recent run of the r/Place interactive canvas.

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