Four months after introducing video, Instagram took the natural next step today, telling its over 150 million users their streams would soon include ads too.
The company, acquired by Facebook for $736 million in 2012, announced the development in a short blog post it published Thursday afternoon. The ads, the post said, will be introduced slowly and added no guarantees if that would continue after an initial phase.
Brands like GE, Levi's and Burberry were quick to jump on Instagram as a publishing platform. Now Instagram will allow advertisers to pay for a presence on the photo and video service to reach a broader cross-section of users.
Instagram said it will start with brands "already great members of the Instagram community." "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 said.
"We want these ads to be enjoyable and creative in much the same way you see engaging, high-quality ads when you flip through your favorite magazine."
Instagram publishes its blog on Tumblr and users there, already angered by the introduction of ads to Tumblr, did not respond positively to the news. "Jesus, first tumblr, now Instagram. Ads ruin the entire experience," wrote one user. "This is when I seriously stop using instagram. not that i use it that much anyways," wrote another.
But just like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, Instagram is a free service that built a critical mass of users before introducing ads. The three continue to thrive despite the introduction of ads, and Facebook has built a dominant mobile ad business on the back of its less than popular News Feed ads.
The introduction of ads to Instagram marks the second significant change to the product in less than four months. The first, video, brought sound and motion to what had previously been a quiet, mostly serene user experience. With video live, Instagram can now attempt to capture the higher CPMs video ads command on the web.
Perhaps understanding the news would not be universally well received, Instagram published the post shortly before Twitter's much anticipated S-1 filing was released to the public this afternoon.
If there's such a thing as a Thursday afternoon news dump, this might be it.
Interstingly, on the day Facebook announced its ad plans for Instagram, Twitter revealed in its IPO prospectus it does not "currently place, or currently plan to place, ads on Vine"