How *does* Instagram make money?

Earlier in the week, one of our students asked, “How does Instagram make money?” It’s a good question: how do they?

Short answer: they don’t. Longer answer: they will at some point, and sometime soon there will be ads. Here’s a Wall Street Journal article that features an interview with Emily White, Instagram’s director of business operations.

“There are no ads on Instagram, but Ms. White said it should be ready to begin selling ads within the next year.

Her challenge is to figure out how to integrate marketing without jeopardizing Instagram’s cool factor.

‘We want to make money in the long term, but we don’t have any short-term pressure,” she said.”

Nice place to be, right? Wouldn’t you like Facebook to give you a billion dollars and then say, don’t sweat the small stuff—just figure it out at some point?

This article from MSN Money from earlier in the summer talks about Instagram and advertising. The videos they’ve introduced will eventually show 15 second ads. But Wall Street wasn’t pleased with that idea, and the stock price went down.

But another article in AdAge (a good site to read if you’re thinking of going into advertising or PR) suggests that Facebook is already profiting from Instagram. It’s convergence culture in action, it’s fragmented and networked devices put to use. States the AdAge piece:

“As it turns out, Facebook can make money from Instagram by charging brands on Facebook, where ad budgets are already growing aggressively, especially on mobile.

It’s as simple as this: brands create Instagram videos, share them to their Facebook pages and then boost them into paid media that hits the Facebook Newsfeed, in the same way that they boost text or photo posts. This enables brands to reach Facebook’s 818 million monthly active mobile users, which dwarfs Instagram’s 130 million. It’s profiting from Instagram without having to advertise on Instagram.”

Curious to know what you think of these types of moves. Does it make sense that Facebook bought Instagram? How successful do you think it is? 

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The audience has an audience

TV shows have audiences. They used to “be recorded in front of a live studio audience,” they used to have laugh tracks—sort of an imaginary audience— it was a way to make the private, at-home experience of TV feel more connected to a more traditional audience.

These days, watching TV is connected and disconnected in different ways. How many of you watch TV with another screen (or two, or three) at hand—your phone, your laptop, your tablet? This situation gives rise to a world of fan art in animated gifs and Youtube videos. They are screens on screens. Now, TV watching is a different, more interactive thing.

Watch this short Youtube video and hear Kenyatta Cheese and Kevin Slavin talk about how audiences are changing. Bonus: Kenyatta will be joining our class by Skype later this semester to talk about audiences and viral media (and possibly, his famous dog, Elle).

For this week: a This American Life segment on Journatic

Journatic logoIs journalism local if the stories are produced thousands of miles away, by people who’ve never been to the town? Journatic, “a leading provided of content production services to media companies and marketers,” uses low-paid writers in the US and in countries like the Philippines  to produce stories—often “hyperlocal stories,” written under American-sounding bylines. One newspaper who used Journatic: the Chicago Tribune. They laid off 7 local workers, replacing them with Journatic’s content. WBEZ’s public radio show American Life did a story about Journatic—as a result of the show, the Tribune changed its relationship with Journatic, first severing its relationship, then only using it for listings.

Please listen to the This American Life episode this week (roughly 20 minutes).

The web we lost

Earlier in the semester, we talked about webs that were and webs that weren’t, as we looked at the pre-history of the Internet we know today—the Memex and the Mondaneum, the origins of Web 2.0.

Anil Dash, an important and longstanding voice in the blogosphere, wrote “The Web We Lost” about some of the changes that have gone on over the last decade on the web and social media. For instance, links were formerly used for editorial purposes; today, they’re used for generating revenue. Or people could reasonably expect to be able to download the content they contributed to an online service. Or photos on Flickr were easily used in cool mashups, often thanks to Creative Commons licensing.

One of the things I like about Anil is that he stays optimistic even in the face of these changes. He followed up his post with “Rebuilding the Web We Lost,” in which he suggests how we might bring back some attributes of the earlier social web. How could startups be supported without huge venture capital or the expectation that they get huge? How can interfaces be made better? How could the web support digital public spaces, not just private ones?

In our blog projects, how might we think of incorporating some of these older digital values in our work? How might they extend what we think of digital media fluency? And as a newer digital critic, what do you think of Anil’s two posts?

Google Glass

Google Glass

Google Glass image from the Independent.co.uk, 2013

Our midterm essay question dealt with Google Glass. Look at Google’s How It Feels video for Google Glass. What do you think it’s advocating? Look at how the lens and camera slip away to just show bodies—a figure skater, a skydiver. We’ll be talking about “ubiquitous computing” in the next few weeks, which is what happens as computers seep into the world around us.

Have a great spring break, and see you next week!

Creating good conversations online

Image: Joi Ito for Freesouls

How to begin describing Howard Rheingold? When I read his book Virtual Community in a journalism class here, it had a huge impact on my thinking. A year later, I was moving to California to work for him. Howard is a writer about all things digital culture. His book Smart Mobs predicted the always-on mobile era we’re in now; these days, he works on teaching and learning methods. He always wears bright colors and painted Doc Martens boots (I looked so boring when I met him and I was wearing my usual dark colors). He’s been a teacher and mentor to generations of people who work on digital media in all of its forms, myself included.

Howard wrote a piece called The Art of Hosting Good Conversations Online a while back, but I wanted to share it with you. In old-style virtual communities, the way that a conversation would work is similar to how you converse with someone on a Facebook wall, but more generalized. Someone had the official role of host, and that’s what he’s addressing here.

As you’re seeding your blogs, posting blog posts and soon, commenting on each other’s blogs, give some thought to Howard’s suggestions. Online conversations are like parties. Nobody wants to be the first person in the door at a party (and yet the host worries when everyone’s late to the party). Good hosts make connections between people. If things get feisty or testy, they find ways to  ratchet down the tension, rather than the guests breaking the furniture or the host burning down the place. Most of all, good conversations are authentic, and we know authentic when we see it. Keep Howard’s wisdom in mind as you start off blogging over the next weeks.