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Instagram retreats a bit on photo ads

Published December 21, 2012 1:48 pm

Revolt • CEO reacts to user backlash over plan to share content.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Instagram may have put its controversial plan to share user content with advertisers on the back burner for now. But many members are still hot about a proposal they fear would allow the photo-sharing service to profit from their creative grist.

After co-founder Kevin Systrom posted a second mea-culpa blog post late Thursday about the proposed changes to its terms of service agreement, saying "Instagram has no intention of selling your photos," many users seemed doubtful on Friday of the service's true intentions.

"I just read the blog!" wrote a user named "zuzublue." "I think they're not changing anything." And "kevinshea_nyc" commented: "I really don't see the difference here. Your photos can still be sold by this platform to marketeers."

Systrom's latest statement seemed to muddy things even more. And Instagram spokeswoman Meredith Chin seemed to validate the premise presented by angry users that Instagram was simply putting the advertising plan on hold in the hopes of repackaging it in a more digestible form.

"Yes," Chin replied, later adding that "I can't comment on speculation of exactly how advertising will work in the future. What I can tell you is we don't have any specific plans around advertising on Instagram, which is why we reinstated the original terms for that section. If and when we do, we'll come back to our users and start the conversation again."

The user revolt broke out earlier this week as word spread of the service's new policy. Many users put up black screens instead of photos in a show of protest. It was unclear whether reverting its terms of service would be enough to satisfy high-profile users such as National Geographic, which stopped using its Instagram account in light of the moves, or other users who have aired their grievances on Twitter and Facebook.

The controversy has driven traffic and new users to several other photo-sharing applications.

In his blog post on Thursday, titled "Updated Terms of Service Based on Your Feedback," Systrom began with an apology.

"Earlier this week," he wrote, "we introduced a set of updates to our privacy policy and terms of service to help our users better understand our service. In the days since, it became clear that we failed to fulfill what I consider one of our most important responsibilities - to communicate our intentions clearly. I am sorry for that, and I am focused on making it right."

But later in the post, Systrom seemed to leave the door open to some version of content sharing with advertisers.

Kevin Davis, co-founder of photosocial site Rawporter, said "it seems like Instagram will still try and sell photos to ad agencies and the users won't be getting compensation, Instagram will.

Systrom also did not clarify how Instagram planned to monetize its service in the future. Facebook is under pressure to make Instagram earn income.

"It's a free service — they have to monetize somewhere," said John Casasanta, a principal at Tap Tap Tap, the maker of Camera(PLUS), a photo-filter app that has shunned advertising and instead charges users for premium features. "The days of the simple banner ads are gone. Their user data is too valuable."






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