Instagram Change May Help It Finally Make Money
Technology Editor, CNBC.com
Facebook-owned Instagram has launched a new product that enables users to view their newsfeed via the web, giving users easier access to their content across platforms and possibly opening up a way for the company to generate revenue.
Previously, users could only view their photo feed from the Instagram app. Now, users can log into the Instagram website and view their photos in real time just like they do when viewing their feed on the application.
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Instagram in late 2012 launched a desktop website that allowed users to view profiles. However, it did not show users their feed as images were being posted. This new product, released Tuesday, is aimed at expanding the web platform to make content more accessible, the company said.
Since the company already allows access to user profiles via the web, expanding to the newsfeed is the logical next step, said Ross Sheingold, directory for strategy at Laundry Service, a social media agency. The expansion to web will also help Instagram with its discoverability problem, Sheingold said in an email to CNBC.
"Right now, Instagram is home to some of the most amazing photos on the Internet, but there isn't an easy way to surface them. Searching by tags on the mobile app is clunky and tedious," he said. "The web interface will enhance the Instagram ecosystem and will help inform discoverability optimizations for the mobile app moving forward."
Instagram's move to add its users' feeds to the web also could help the company finally start generating some revenue.
While the mobile platform is where Instagram is likely to focus its advertising opportunity, web expansion gives the company an easy way to possibly create ad revenue, said Debra Williamson, a social media advertising analyst for eMarketer.
"By having an expanded web presence it makes it easier to roll in advertising types that you already see on Facebook, like ads on the right side of the page and ads potentially in the newsfeed," she said. "It gives it a broader platform for ads to be displayed."
Because Instagram—which consists of users sharing pictures in real time— is entirely focused on imagery it is an ideal platform for advertisers to tap into, Williamson said.
"Instagram has a pretty unique opportunity it hasn't exploited yet," she said. "Instagram is so great for sharing images and using imagery to communicate how you feel, and its not just about sharing photos. ... Advertisers could tap into that. Advertisers already create a lot of imagery in their advertising, so Instagram fits them perfectly."
While an expansion of its platform to web may signal Instagram has plans to start displaying ads, a more likely indicator for ad implementation would be when the company introduces "Edge Rank" -- an algorithm that determines which posts appear in users' newsfeeds, Sheingold said.
"That would change the Instagram user experience in a meaningful way, paving the way for 'promoted posts' similar to those that appear in the Facebook newsfeed," he said.
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