Two weeks ago, the filter-flinging photography phenomenon Instagram announced in a blog post that the social network site will be working its way toward being a “sustainable business.”
Over the network’s three year lifespan, the user base has grown to about 150 million active users who check in at least monthly. However, while a sure success, the market for social networks is often finicky. Plenty of fresh platforms are nipping at the heels of the behemoths who reign over our thirst to share life online.
Such exists a very delicate balance of power, one in which the slightest misstep can cost a platform a solid chunk of its users.
As Tumblr witnessed, placing advertisements conspicuously can cause a hiccup, or rather an outrage. After Yahoo! threw down $1.1 billion to acquire the free to use blogging network, “Sponsored Stories,” or promoted posts, began popping up. Many users threatened to leave the service and WordPress, a like-minded competitor, reported a spike in new account creation. In fact, a chart provided by buzzfeed.com and created by Quantcast, a leading analytics firm, shows the user base shrinking at an alarming rate.
But wait, in Instagram’s blog post announcing the inclusion of ads, the company sympathizes with users on the upcoming change.
“Seeing photos and videos from brands you don’t follow will be new, so we’ll start slow,” the Instagram blog post said. “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.”
The blog post goes on to say that their aim is to make the ads, “feel as natural as the photos and videos many of you already enjoy from your favorite brands.”
However, in Tumblr’s announcement regarding Sponsored Stories, they promised that the ads, “will simply blend in with the posts from the blogs you follow.” This was certainly not the case.
When asked about the topic, K-State students appear torn.
“I think ads on media are a necessary evil,” Emma Brann, senior in secondary education and English, said. “Annoying and bulky, but it’s never going to change because it’s all about the money. A ‘few’ relative ads quickly turns into an ad on the side of my Facebook asking me to ‘go on a date’ with my cousin.”
It is indubitably “all about the money.” In an article by Heather Kelly from CNN on Oct. 25, an analyst with investment firm Sterne Agee, Arvind Bhatia, projected that the photo service will be bringing in $400 million annually within three to four years purely because of these ads. This makes an otherwise questionable acquisition in Facebook’s portfolio potentially one of their most lucrative.
Christina Thompson, senior in family studies and human services, has a more optimistic view on Instagram advertisements.
“Could be worse,” Thompson said. “They could be pop-ups.”