You knew it was too good to be true. Instagram has been free to download and use since it first hit the App Store in October of 2010, but now the app will be turning into a conduit for ads in order to turn a profit and make Facebook’s billion-dollar acquisition look like a smart deal. Instagram’s director of business operations, Emily White, outed the news about Instagram ads in a Wall Street Journal article yesterday.
White told the WSJ that Instagram should be ready to start selling ads next year. Meanwhile, the company with the mission of capturing and sharing the world’s moments needs to determine a way to make those ads visible to its 150 million-plus users without risking a mass exodus. Last December, a change in Instagram’s terms of service carried the implication that user content — your photos and short videos — could be transformed into ads, and many users pushed back by dropping the service. However, a gain of 128 million monthly active users since Facebook bought the company has more than outweighed the few who left in a huff.
The challenge to Instagram is to make the service valuable to advertisers without making users — who are used to an ad-free Instagram — irate. Whether or not that challenge is met by the company remains to be seen.