Where to actually start? Every so often we see the once great Instagram app slide into oblivion, barely clinging on to its importance to the users that have used it for more than a decade. Unfortunately, there isn’t a service that comes close to the reach that Instagram has, but hopefully that will change if they keep going the way they are.
The latest round of excuses making is not new information, but when a Kardashian chips in, companies tend to answer. With that said, this isn’t because of some altruistic intentions. The Kardashians make their living from social media, and clearly the effects of Meta changing the way the app works is affecting the bottom line.
Casey Newton summed this up expertly in an edition of his Platformer newsletter (paywall), an episode of The Vergecast and also a widely shared Twitter thread. He is dead right in conclusion — if you don’t like it, tough because Facebook has all the data, and it knows what it’s doing. Plus, it doesn’t care about you.
Adam Mosseri was fairly quick to come out and answer some feedback (again) following the Kardashian post. As if by magic, the same message is released, with intense stares into the camera and quick jump cuts between points. Because that’s how you do things to be down with the kids. It was long winded and clearly scripted but there are a couple of points to press on in this specific message.
So, where does this leave photos. As a photographer, I wholeheartedly believe that Meta does not give a damn about photos. It is a legacy which they would get rid of if they could. All the surrounding words were half-hearted and stale. Using words like “continuing to support photos” without actually showing any excitement or reassurances to those that are left out.
With this shift to mobile first video, they are also forcing photographers to either use a terrible 16:9 vertical crop that is even worse than the 4:5 one that went before it. The alternative is having your photo fade out at the bottom and look terrible. None of this was pointed out in the video, however, because Adam is loves photos after all.
Video & Reels
The shift to videos was doubled down on. In no uncertain terms, this is the way Instagram is going, and its users are simply going to have to get used to it. In his words, “I do believe that more and more of Instagram is going to become video”.
The powers at Instagram see video as the future because they simply do not want you using another app, and TikTok is the single biggest threat that Meta (and others) have ever faced. As such, they will shove videos down users throats, so they realise that Instagram does video, and isn’t just a place to cross post them.
Adam pointed out that even if they don't change anything else, more and more videos are being shared and that’s what the users like. This may be the case, but you only have to look at the volume of users that have to post videos to get the engagement they used to. My evidence is of course anecdotal, but I have not met a simple photographer that posts a Reel apart from that they have to, or they lose work.
Not all video growth on Instagram is down to this, but a large percentage of people sharing videos are those that make money on social media and as such have no choice but to join in with Reels posting. Add into this the users who are now cross posting their TikTok videos to Instagram because why not, and you surely have a gigantic boost in video sharing with only a small algorithm change from Meta.
“If you look at what people like and consume on Instagram, that’s also shifting increasingly towards video”. These words stuck out to me the most, what Adam left out was the last part of the sentence, which should have been “because they have no choice”. Mine, as with many peoples, relationship with Instagram is tenuous at the best of times. I really hate it, but I have to post if I want more people to see my stuff. So, as I said before, I’ll just carry on until it’s gone.