7 03 2012

Yesterday I offered high praise for Instagram reaching 25 million users, but then turned around and gave them a tongue lashing for not having monetized the business yet. And since one good tongue lashing deserves another, let’s make this two-for-two.

So here goes: Instagram is giving away the store. Today, Mashable highlighted no fewer than 13 third-party products users can purchase that will feature their clever Instagram photos. These companies have all capitalized on Instagram’s willingness to share its API, which is tantamount to giving away the keys to the kingdom.

Now I realize that free API access is something that helped propel Twitter in its early days. A plethora of third-party services emerged that helped users manage their account(s), schedule tweets and more. But those were all free, too. In this case, companies are making money off of Instagram, while Instagram has yet to make a nickel.

A quick glance will show that just about all of these services are really nothing more than photo printing sites that have already existed in the online arena for years. Calendars. Stickers. Fridge magnets. Posters. Picture books. There’s really nothing new going on here.

Except that that it is now pathetically easy to place these orders. It’s like taking candy from babies. Instagram’s babies.

If anything, this should be a clarion call for Instagram to get it together and resist the pick-pocketing going on. Given the extreme affinity Instagramers have for the site as well as their pics, it’s a natural to sell related products. Nothing beats a little vanity press, you know (he says as he admires his own pics printed on canvas).

Don’t get me wrong. I love Instagram and all its retro-chic filters. I love the photo memes and can make fun of myself for swallowing them (see the video linked in yesterday’s blog). And I can endure the eye-rolling of my wife whenever she says me taking yet another pic of my entree or beer. Whatever. This is fun.

But if Instagram were to ever join the fray of those launching IPOs, they had better get a revenue plan in place before I (or presumably many others) would invest. Because returns on investment are something I value more than a phone full of offbeat pics. And I would love to be able to take a picture of that first dividend check. I might just post it.

Dr “Picture This” Gerlich




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