Instagram has grown to more than 130 million users after its acquisition by Facebook, but to really see the impact of instagram and its future potential think about its value as a separate entity from Facebook. Instagram has already changed the face of photojournalism and with the release of its video functionality has the chance to change the face of video in journalism as well.
Instagrams new announcement of video functionality immediately drew comparisons to Twitters Vine. That’s natural given that Facebook and Twitter are seen as competitors. But the functionality of Instagram video is so much different from Vine that they should really be considered different products in different categories.
Instagram photos has had a significant impact on journalism. In the USA the Chicago Sun Times has eliminated their photography department and instead gave all reporters iPhones and training on smartphone photography. The New York times has featured Instagram photographs on the front page of the daily paper.
What Instagram has done is make it easy for someone with a little bit of training and an eye for capturing what’s important; to be able to create a beautiful photo that is impressive on the web and good enough for print. Instagram video is aiming to do the same thing.
Yes, Instagram is a consumer application but it works because it makes consumer photographs look professional and when everyone can create professional quality output industries are forced to change. In this case photojournalist and photographers for media companies are finding themselves marginalized. First by wire companies and now journalist with iPhones.
If Instagram video can take 15 seconds of video content made by anyone and make it TV quality it will have a far reaching impact. For now its bound to have an immediate impact in digital media, enabling reporters to create content for news sites with very little effort on their smartphones.
It will have an impact on real estate, enabling agents to make attractive clips of properties and easily upload the content to their website. It will have an impact on entertainment, allowing artist and celebrities to create short commercials or promotional messages and share them easily with fans on Facebook and Twitter.
It will have more impact than Youtube, which doesn’t give users a way to easily create content but where much of the content is currently shared. If 130 million users are creating content on Instagram and uploading it to Facebook, where does that leave Youtube? In trouble, that’s where.
Forget about Vine, Instagram video has nothing to do with Vine. Instagram video is a new form of communication, Vine is a new form of visualization. I’m still positive about Vine, as positive as I was when I first wrote about the service some time ago. But don’t think of the two as being in the same space, they are not.
Vine won’t have any impact on Journalism, but Instagram will. It will shift the way media companies think about video content the way it is forcing them to rethink how they approach photo content. That means shifting the way media companies communicate stories with video content, as people perfect the method of short video story telling media companies will start adopting the form as well.
Media companies have several reasons to adopt the Instagram short form format. Short form video stories match the way consumers consume news content in the Twitter age, and it enables media companies to grow off the backs of Instagram’s 130M and growing users as well as Facebook and Twitter where the content will be shared.
If we step back and detach our thoughts of Instagram from Facebook and think of it as an independent entity and its ability to influence society as such, we see it has a significant influence on us. As a consumer application used by parents to capture photos and videos of children, or from teenagers from taking pictures of their nails then we see it is indeed changing society as a whole in small but significant ways.
Instagram has shown the ability to influence society in the same way Twitter has influenced the way we communicate and consume content. It will be a long lasting and irreversible change because the technology works and it has Facebook’s network effect to grow upon.
The Chicago Sun Times adaption of mobile phones for photographs, New York Times using Instagram photographs is just a small sign of things to come. In the same way that every major politician and media company in the world uses Twitter we will eventually see Instagram influence a much wider sphere of society then the company even intended.
So as an independent company I think Instagram is very important because it has developed technology that empowers users to communicate easily and beautiful. But more than ever now because of its connection with Facebook it is guaranteed that Instagram will change society in a permanent and lasting way. Facebook gives it reach. Zuckerberg is smart to give Systrom, the founder of Instagram, independance to build Instagram. If Facebook starts to buy into the hype that Instagram is somehow a competitor to Twitter services, they will miss out on the much bigger role Instagram will play in society. To change the way we communicate.