Instagram’s new Feed feature is easy to use and ad-free for now

11 Feb

Instagram’s new Feed feature is clean, simple and easy to use. And it goes a long way to bolster the website for the photo-sharing social network.

But could the introduction of the tool eventually lead to advertisements on the website?

The Feed page displays to users the latest photos uploaded by those they follow — a feature previously reserved for the mobile versions of Instagram.

In the blog post announcing the new feature, co-founder Kevin Systrom said that if users shrink the width of their browser, the page will shift to look similar to how the Feed appears on Instagram’s mobile apps.

But if users view Feed in a stretched-out window the way they do most websites, the design shares many similarities to that of the desktop version of the Facebook News Feed with one key difference — there are no advertisements.

When looking at the Web version of the Facebook News Feed, ads appear on a column to the right of the feature as well as in sponsored posts that run within the feature. For now, there are no sponsored posts on Instagram, and the space to the right of the Feed, as well as to the left, is totally blank.

But with 90 million monthly active users and counting, that’s valuable real estate.

Social media analyst Debra Aho Williamson of eMarketer said Instagram’s extended website presents it with more space to sell ads that marketers are highly interested in purchasing.

“The images can be larger, the ads can be larger and there’s more space to put ads,” Williamson said. “The mobile environment compresses all that, and I think advertisers will appreciate having that larger palette if and when Instagram rolls out its advertising options.”

Williamson said advertisers want to sell visual ads, meaning large photos and videos, rather than the small text ads you see on the side of your Facebook News Feed. And because Instagram is all about visuals, that makes it an attractive space for advertisers.

“Instagram’s model fits very nicely with what marketers want to do with social media,” she said.

Instagram told The Times it had no plans to sell and place advertisements on the new Feed page.

But Facebook bought Instagram last year for $715 million — its most expensive acquisition to date — and the company may eventually have to justify the purchase.

The Menlo Park, Calif., company has looked at generating revenue from ads before. In December Instagram announced controversial new terms of service that would have allowed it to let companies pay to use people’s photographs in advertisements that would appear within the app.

User backlash stopped Instagram from making that change, and eventually the company introduced different terms of service.

Until Instagram announces ads, users are in the clear, but all signs certainly seem to be pointing toward ads in the future.

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