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Instagram has come out and said it: Ads are on their way to its 150-million-user-strong photo sharing platform. Emily White, the app's director of business operations, told The Wall Street Journal that the company plans to be ready to sell ads within the next year.
This statement is a long time coming. Carolyn Everson, vp/global marketing solutions of Insta's parent company Facebook, confirmed over a year ago that they planned to monetize the app, saying "When that will happen, I can't comment, but it's going to happen." They've already made missteps along the way: Recall the pushback when Instagram's terms of service changed, suggesting that users' arty snacktime close-ups, selfies, etc. could be used indiscriminately for advertising? That policy was re-tooled after users nearly rioted.
White assured WSJ that, while brands can gain permission for access to user content through third parties, the app itself is "not going to facilitate that." Instead, she's exploring Insta's Discover feature, which promotes popular content, and the search function, a.k.a. hashtag heaven.
One of the major obstacles to selling ads is the obvious not-pissing-off-users-with-cluttered-and-obstructive-content barrier. (Luckily, they can learn from Facebook's mistakes in that field.) Another issue is identifying a way to offer brands an advertising venue that's more effective than the current self-promotion they get totally free via the app. White and her team are going to have to answer the age-old question for brands, why buy the cow when they're giving away the milk for free?
· Instagram Pictures Itself Making Money [WSJ]
· Instagram Can Now Use Your Selfie in Ads Without Asking [Racked]