Photo-sharing Facebook subsidiary Instagram has announced that it will soon start serving ads to its US users, including photos and videos.
"We have big ideas for the future, and part of making them happen is building Instagram into a sustainable business," a company spokesperson wrote in a blog post on Thursday.
Facebook completed its acquisition of Instagram for $715m in September 2012, but it has kept fairly quiet about the property since then, except to say that its user base keeps growing. On Thursday, the company described Instagram as "a global community of more than 150 million people."
During a call with financial analysts back in July, Facebook honcho Mark Zuckerberg said that the focus then was still on increasing Instagram's "footprint" and that it was too soon to talk about how it planned to make money.
That thinking now appears to have changed, but Instagram says it plans to introduce advertising gradually, beginning with a limited number of spots that will only be shown to US-based users for now.
"Seeing photos and videos from brands you don't follow will be new, so we'll start slow," the blog post explained. "We'll focus on delivering a small number of beautiful, high-quality photos and videos from a handful of brands that are already great members of the Instagram community."
Just which brands and companies will be among the first batch of advertisers was not disclosed.
Instagram says it would like the ads that users see on the service to be "enjoyable and creative," more like the slick ads found in glossy magazines than the typical banners and boxes found on most sites.
The selection will include videos in addition to photos, however, Instagram having added the ability to upload 15-second video clips to its service in June.
Users will be able to hide ads that they don't like and complain about them to Instagram, which the company says will allow it to "continually improve the Instagram experience."
Instagram didn't specify how often the ads might appear, except to say that US users "may begin seeing an occasional ad" in their feeds as the feature rolls out, which is due to begin in the next couple of months.
Just how Instagram's legion of photo-hipsters will take to the change remains to be seen, but so far the outlook seems good: reality TV star Kim Kardashian, who threatened to quit Instagram in December 2012 because of changes to the company's terms and conditions, has so far lodged no similar protest over its ad plans. ®
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