Now That We Know Instagram Isn’t a Charity, What Would You Be Willing to Pay?

In the wake of a hue and cry over Instagram‘s proposed changes to its terms of service, the company has announced it will remove language that would have given Instagram rights to use photos in advertisements. Yet the protests continue, with some high profile users suspending their use of the service or shutting down their accounts altogether.

It’s worth asking what, if anything, individual photographers (and big publishers such as Time, National Geographic, and others) are willing to pay to use Instagram. $10 per year? $25? $100? Even more? And what would photo editors, curators, art directors and others pay for their use of the service to scout talent and review work?

Instagram announced changes to its terms of service on Friday so it can monetize the service by using the pictures and personal data of users to generate advertising dollars. Presumably Instagram would use the content and data to deliver audience and eyeballs to advertisers.

The details of how that would work are opaque, but their push to monetize the service isn’t irrational: they’re looking for a return on their investment, and for compensation for their creativity, risk, and operating costs, just like any other business.

It is hard to argue that they would be exploiting Instagram users by doing away with free service. After all, Instagram provides users with undeniable benefits: a compelling service, with innovative features, the opportunity for a creative outlet, the benefits of community, and bandwidth–all free of charge.

Rather than charge usage fees, though, Instagram is effectively trying to barter its services for its users’ data and intellectual property. It obviously made the mistake of pressing for too much.

But there’s almost certainly a level of exchange that most Instagram users would be comfortable with. Facebook’s popularity suggests that users–including many photographers–are willing to barter personal data and intellectual property for a
desirable service. And flickr, a service that some Instagram defectors are considering, charges $25 per year for pro accounts (regular accounts are free, but bandwidth is restricted).

Ultimately, the brouhaha over Instagram’s proposed terms of service boils down to a marketplace negotiation over a fair price for a service, with both sides testing their bargaining strength to start. In the end, photographers (and other Instagram users) will have to pay something.

We’d like to hear from our readers who have used Instagram: How much would you be willing to pay per month or per year or per upload to use Instagram? Or, if you prefer that the service remains free, what new service terms would be acceptable? Would you stay with Instagram if they sold just your user data to advertisers? Would you stay if they licensed or otherwise used your photos to help their advertisers? What’s your deal breaker with Instagram?

Related story: Photographers Balk at Instagram’s New Terms of Use

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5 Responses to “Now That We Know Instagram Isn’t a Charity, What Would You Be Willing to Pay?”

  1. Ambrose Pierce Says:

    I think people have to begin asking themselves a very fundamental question: do we need Instagram? for that matter do we need any of these services? Do they truly enhance our lives, or is it just another marketing bait and switch where a so-called “need” is created. What I find endlessly disappointing about these services is how manipulative their business model’s are. It’s built on the concept of crowd-sourced dependence. Once people have invested themselves in the service by sharing their data, uploading their images, and establishing a presence, they are reluctant to give that up, even if it means agreeing to onerous terms and conditions, or having to pony up a fee. It’s something they’ve integrated into their lives and they begin to believe they can’t live without, which is simply not true. Purveyors of new social media platforms are well schooled in the behavior of the crowd and are very good at exploiting it. To me, it just seems very underhanded. Why not just be straight with folks from the very beginning and say your are going to charge for the service, instead of saying its free and later change course by either begging for donations like wikipedia does, or changing the rules as you go along. The truth is, there would be no facebook, no instagram, no youtube, no social media if it were not for those who contribute to it, while the owners of the platforms ride on the coat tails of the crowd.

  2. Ed Anderson Says:

    As a photographer who approaches technology on a need-to-know basis, I found Instagram to frankly be a fun way to post the occasional moment on the road (when I actually remember that my phone is also a camera). I don’t think I’d ever tweet if there wasn’t a corresponding image, because (honestly), who cares? That said, I’m pretty disappointed that a seemingly “cool” company like Instagram could be so greedy and short-sighted as to not realize the backlash that their proposed terms would create. I’d be more than happy to pay an annual fee to use the service, which I truly believe is a great social marketing tool (if there is such a thing). It’s topical, it’s immediate, it’s not precious. The idea, however, that a company would use an image of my kid (let alone any image of mine) for their own corporate promotion without even asking my permission (let alone negotiating compensation), is unbelievable. I’ll wait a bit to see how it shakes out, but I’ll have no hesitation jumping ship if shady practices win the day. I truly hope that Instagram sees the light, and realizes how cool they could be. If not, then I’ll say, with all do respect, “Screw you”.

  3. David Says:

    Follow a dorky nerd who ripped off his roommates and buy another company for a billion dollars and then see how many photographs you can license to offset your loses!

  4. PDN Pulse » Blog Archive » Bowing to Pressure from Users, Instagram Retracts New Terms of Use Says:

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  5. Ian Says:

    I think I’ll devote my energies to Flickr. A more photo centric community, with the potential to give more constructive feedback and licensing models that are more suitable to me.