Instagram scam: how the media was sucked in

19 Dec 2012

And so, with all the predictability of an EastEnders plot line, Instagram has started back-pedalling on the controversial "we own your photos" policy that it had no intention of implementing in the first place.

It was such a predictable PR stunt that we told you exactly how it was going to pan out yesterday morning:

Yet, that still didn't stop half the world's media from jumping on the "story", writing  hand-wringing pieces about this gross invasion of your rights, and following up this morning with self-congratulatory "Instagram forced to back down" stories. It wasn't forced to back down. It never intended to sell people's photos in the first place. It was a stunt designed to give the company two days of feverish press coverage at a time of year when its PR company knew absolutely nothing else was going on and would receive maximum attention. You've been played, chaps. At least have the good grace to admit it.

Yet, the main reason that this is such an obvious non-story is that the enormous vault of heavily-filtered, smartphone snaps has no commercial value in the first place. It's a gigantic, unsorted, poorly labelled mass of iffy photography. Even if someone was mad enough to pay for the content, there's no meaningful way of searching the Instagram library in the first place.

Nobody wants to see blurry photos of your kids, your cat or your breakfast that have been bodged to look like a 1970s Polaroid, let alone pay for them.

Update 21 December 2012: Instagram has now performed a full u-turn. A blog post from the Instagram CEO says: "Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010."

How tediously predictable.

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