Confirming news that first broke last month, a little over an hour ago, a post on Instagram’s blog revealed that the photo-sharing social network owned by Facebook would soon be rolling out advertisements in its users feeds.
Here’s the meat of the message:
“We have big ideas for the future, and part of making them happen is building Instagram into a sustainable business. In the next couple months, you may begin seeing an occasional ad in your Instagram feed if you’re in the United States. Seeing photos and videos from brands you don’t follow will be new, so we’ll start slow. We’ll focus on delivering a small number of beautiful, high-quality photos and videos from a handful of brands that are already great members of the Instagram community.”
Our own Shawn Farner’s excellent reaction:
The post continues:
“Our aim is to make any advertisements you see feel as natural to Instagram as the photos and videos many of you already enjoy from your favorite brands. After all, our team doesn’t just build Instagram, we use it each and every day. We want these ads to be enjoyable and creative in much the same way you see engaging, high-quality ads when you flip through your favorite magazine.”
While this all makes total sense, it’s likely that more than a few Instagrammers aren’t too happy about their formerly curated feeds suddenly brimming with commercials. But while advertisements may rub some users the wrong way, it’s important to remember that Instagram offers its services to users for free, and has for the entirety of its existence. And since the company is currently owned by Facebook—another social networking site that slowly rolled in advertisements to bring in the bucks—it only makes sense that Instagram would go this route as well. Other than charging subscription fees, what else could Instagram do?
Interestingly, it was only earlier today that we learned about some rumored new functionality within the forthcoming KitKat iteration of Google’s mobile OS, Android. If true, those new features would offer Android users the ability to edit and filter photos in similar ways that Instagram does—features that have already come with Apple’s newest mobile operating system, iOS 7. I speculated that the new photo editing options could go a long way toward helping Google steer its customers back to its underused Google+ social network. The addition of advertisements to its Facebook rival only makes that more likely.
That said, the way the blog post says ads will be integrated doesn’t sound too obtrusive at all. Like music streaming service Songza’s practice of offering sponsored playlists, Instagram promises to make the ads feel like a natural, normal part of what you’ll see in a typical day. Just, you know, with a few more logos.
What do you think? Is adding advertisements the only way to be profitable on the web? Or should Instagram have rolled out subscription services instead? Are there any other alternatives to make the company some money?