Instagram Tops 150M Monthly Active Users, Eyes Advertising ‘Within The Next Year’

By David Cohen 

Facebook-owned photo-sharing network Instagram now boasts more than 150 million monthly active users, and if Director of Business Operations Emily White gets her way, Instagram will soon be able to boast about generating advertising revenue, as well.

White spoke with The Wall Street Journal about Instagram’s challenge of monetizing its product without simultaneously alienating its users, saying that she expects Instagram to be ready to sell ads within the next year.

She told the Journal that when she first moved over to Instagram from her previous role as director of mobile partnerships for parent company Facebook, Instagram had no clear business outline, and she remedied that, along with Co-Founder and CEO Kevin Systrom, in a determined fashion:

For the first two weeks, I locked him into a conference room and I said, “This is all about getting the mission on paper.”

The result was, “To capture and share the world’s moments,” and White is looking to share a whole lot more, telling the Journal she met last week with potential advertisers Ford, Williams-Sonoma, and Coca-Cola.

White told the newspaper:

We want to make money in the long-term, but we don’t have any short-term pressure.

She added that the Instagram team is exploring advertising possibilities within its discover feature and search function, saying that in an effort to avoid repeating some of Facebook’s early advertising difficulties, she regularly taps Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Marketing Officer David Fischer, and Vice President of Global Marketing Solutions Carolyn Everson for advice.

White told the Journal:

(Facebook) created a ton of different products and it got complicated. I’m always looking at how to keep it simple.

Pivotal Research Group Senior Analyst Brian Wieser weighed in on the possibility of ads on Instagram, telling the Journal:

Theoretically, (Instagram) could be making hundreds of millions of dollars today, but it would need a big sales force, and it would risk polluting the environment.

John Manoogian, co-founder of social advertising agency 140 Proof, added:

Brands always demand metrics. As it becomes a real advertising platform, it will be held to traditional standards. Brands will want to see how these photos and videos tie back to their sales objectives.

Readers: When do you think we will see advertising on Instagram, and in what forms?