The popular photo-sharing social network Instagram, owned by Facebook, will soon feature advertisements, as the service attempts to make money without alienating users.
Instagram said in a statement posted Thursday on its website that the move to start featuring ads was made to make the company sustainable. It said the advertisements will start slow, featuring "a handful of brands that are already great members of the Instagram family."
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"Our aim is to make any advertisements you see feel as natural to Instagram as the photos and videos many of you already enjoy from your favorite brands," Instagram said in the post.
"After all, our team doesn’t just build Instagram, we use it each and every day. 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."
Emily White, who left Instagram's parent company Facebook to become Instagram's director of business operations, told the Wall Street Journal last month
that the first ads could start popping up on "within the next year."
"We want to make money in the long term, but we don't have any short-term pressure," White told the Wall Street Journal.
Instagram has more than 150 million monthly active users, 128 million of them came from Facebook when the social media site bought the app in 2012.
The challenge is to not turn off users — many of who are teens and young adults — with too many advertisements.
"Theoretically, (Instagram) could be making hundreds of millions of dollars today, but they would need a big sales force and they would risk polluting the environment," Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research Group, told the Wall Street Journal.
On the flipside, Instagram will have to convince companies to spend money on something it has given away for free. Brands like Nike and Lululemon Athletica Inc. already run free viral campaigns on Instagram.
The push comes as one of Instagram's main rivals, Twitter, prepares to release its IPO filing, which will reveal more information about its native advertising business.
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