Ads are on the way for Instagram's 150 million users

Instagram is unstoppable. The photo-sharing app added 20 million users over the last two and a half months, growing from 130 million to 150 million monthly active budding photographers since introducing video.

For comparison, Twitter had 200 million active users as of March. Vine, Instagram’s main competitor, has 40 million registered users. Instagram is clearly killing it.

So it comes as no surprise that Facebook is preparing to turn the popularity of its subsidiary into cold hard cash. Emily White, Instagram’s director of business operations, joined the company in March to take the app to the next level. And that next level will include ads, at least that's what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he envisions during social network’s second-quarter earnings conference call.

“We expect that over time we’re going to generate a lot of profit from [Instagram], probably through advertising,” Zuckerberg said.

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom unveiled Instagram video 
in June, when the app had 130 million users.

Poised to sell

White told the Wall Street Journal that she expects Instagram to be poised to sell ads sometime next year. There’s a lot of work to be done before that happens. The company is building relationships with brands that are already using Instagram to promote themselves for free. Those brands will have to be convinced that paying for ads is more effective than simply posting amazing photos. Instagram also needs a sales team.

According to the WSJ, White is considering the app’s Discover and Search sections as definite ad possibilities. White also said that brands are interested in click-through links from their Instagram photos to their product pages, but that is a pie-in-the-sky idea for now.

White’s biggest challenge in prepping Instagram for ads is the app’s 150 million users. Instagram has been ad-free for so long that any major change could send those users into the waiting arms of another photo-sharing app.

If Instagram is able to avoid Facebook’s recent missteps with policy changes—which White has committed to, she told the WSJ—then perhaps an ad-supported Instagram might not be that terrible.

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