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Instagram launches test of subscriptions for content creators



A food blogger livestreaming from her kitchen
The new Instagram subscriber initiative brings three new features aimed at helping creators to monetise on the platform

Instagram is testing subscriptions with a handful of USA-based creators, who now can set a monthly price of their choice and unlock a “subscribe” button on their profile. The program will let creators select from eight different price points, starting at 99 cents/month and ranging up to $99.99/month.

The feature aims to enable content creators to earn more money by offering benefits to their most engaged Instagram followers, with users being able to access subscriber-only content and receive alerts of exclusive broadcasts. Through these alerts, they will be able to engage more deeply with the creators as the viewing audience will be smaller. Subscriber badges, another feature part of the rollout, will help fans stand out in the comments of public content, as well as help them to be identified in creators’ message request folders in the inbox.

Sharing the news in a short video post uploaded to his personal account this week, Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, explained what creators should expect of the new rollout:

“We want Instagram to be the best place for creators to make a living doing what they love.  Subscriptions allow creators to monetise and become closer to their most engaged followers, by offering exclusive content and experiences such as Subscriber Lives, Subscriber Stories, and Subscriber Badges. We hope to add more creators to this test in the coming months.”

Currently, the list of alpha creators includes actor and writer @alanchikinchow, who has over 9 million followers on Tik Tok, but is yet to reach 400k followers on Instagram; American basketball player @sedona._, who currently plays for the Oregon Ducks of the Pac-12 Conference; astrologer @alizakelly, who is the founder of an astrology-based dating app; dancer and actress @kelseylynncook; digital creator and producer @elliottnorris (another influencer performing better on a rival app, where he boasts a million followers, whereas his IG account has around 166k followers). Olympic silver medalist @jordanchiles is also part of the selected group testing the new feature. Other USA-based creators selected include Los Angeles-based gymnast and model @jackjerry; spiritual coach @bunnymichael; XR creator @donalleniii; and 26-year-old full-time comedy content creator @lonnieiiv.

Other influencers already used to monetise on social media welcomed the new tool.

“Personally, I am excited about this because it is another way of Instagram helping creators to monetize and make money on the platform. How much this subscription is and the amount of content they (subscribers) get, will be up to you.” – celebrates IG growth coach Brock Johnson.

However, the monetising model is already raising questions from regular content creators on the Meta-owned platform.

“I know it is just going to be a small sample size of creators who get subscriptions. But won’t everyone just subscribe to this first batch of content creators, early, and then be hesitant to subscribe to anyone else once the feature gets launched elsewhere? It will be like when you already have a Netflix subscription and so you are hesitant to get other streaming services because you already pay for one.” – questions Canadian content creator Lucas O’keefe, who has over 200k followers on Instagram.

For Solo Ceesay, Co-Founder and COO at open social marketplace Calaxy, the new feature may end up benefiting Instagram’s revenue more than creators themselves.

“The creator economy as a whole is undergoing an extensive renaissance. We are consistently seeing these Web 2.0 platforms implement new features for content creators to properly monetize their intellectual property, in addition to creating more intimate relationships within their existing communities.

The revenue that advertisers are paying to these big platforms dwarfs that of the value these creators are able to extract from their communities directly. Therefore, on the surface, it appears that content creators stand to benefit greatly from these trends and, while that’s true, let’s not forget that all large enterprises have a singular common goal – to be as profitable as possible – and they will always see out that truth.” – believes Ceesay.

The new Instagram subscriber initiative brings three new features:

Subscriber Lives: Where creators can broadcast exclusive Lives to their subscribers, allowing them to engage more deeply.

Subscriber Stories: Creators can create stories just for their subscribers, allowing influencers to share exclusive content and use interactive story stickers with their most engaged followers only.

Subscriber Badges: Creators will see a subscriber badge next to comments and messages so they can easily identify their subscribers.

Instagram is currently undergoing other tests, unrelated to the new subscribe tools. One of them is the possible return to its original chronological format as, since 2016, the social media platform has ranked content based on how interested its algorithm thinks people are in posts, as determined by a combination of the history of likes and comments.


Social media research threatened by new data limitations



The EU Digital Services Act, which came into effect in August 2023, will provide vetted researchers with access to large online platforms | Photo: Robin Worral

Academics around the world have warned of a threat to scientific research as major social media platforms limit access to user data.

Over the course of 2023, numerous social media platforms including X (formerly known as Twitter), TikTok, and Reddit made substantial changes to their Application Programming Interfaces, known as APIs.

Researchers have routinely tapped APIs for large-scale data on social media users into behavioural patterns at individual, group, and population levels. This work has included predicting where conflict may occur and allocating disaster aid; and understanding the impacts of online polarization or misinformation on voting patterns.

However, the changes to APIs have led to data access being drastically reduced, or becoming more costly due to increased charges, meaning that this kind of research is now much harder to conduct. It also inadvertently impacts app developers who have built their service on this source of information.

A new study outlining the implications of changes to how data is extracted and shared within and across social media platforms has been published in Nature Human Behaviour.

Dr Dirk van der Linden from Northumbria’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences was one of the contributors to the study. Dr van der Linden is part of Northumbria’s Social Computing (NorSC) group, which studies social technology and the idea that designing it requires critically understanding the people that use it, the ways in which they live and interact with one another, and the impacts that it can have on our behaviours and interactions with the world.

“It is ever more important to be able to study what is happening on social media networks, as so much of our lives are lived online”, says van der Linden. “It’s already complicated for scientists to deal with an increasingly fragmented landscape of different social media networks in use today, where much of the data is inherently ephemeral. But when the networks controlling this data further complicate matters with more restrictive terms and conditions, we risk running into situations where research skirts the borders of what is ethical, or worse (depending on your point of view), not done at all.”

The research team on the study, which was led by the University of Bath, said that the changes are adversely affecting academics who want to study the impact of social media on mental health, misinformation, political views and more.

“It’s critical that research on people and society can access these large-scale data sets as there can be policy implications and far-reaching consequences if we get it wrong,” said Dr Brit Davidson, from the University of Bath’s School of Management.

“Over time, we have many cases of where the lack of open science (sharing data, analysis, materials) impacts our ability to verify and check for science credibility. We’ve seen science discredited, which causes concern as to whether work can be reproduced or replicated.”

However, there are instances where changes to API access is necessary. For example, the Cambridge Analytica Scandal in 2018 led social media platforms to implement strict measures to prevent third-party users from gaining access to personal data without consent. They then enabled users to revoke app permissions, which gave users more control over their data to protect user privacy.

The EU Digital Services Act, which came into effect in August 2023, aims to provide vetted researchers with access to ‘very large online platforms’, with similar updates to GDPR Article 40. However, researchers are still waiting to hear more about what vetting means in practice and the conditions of using the data.

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X app may lose up to $75 million in advertising revenue in 2023



A man holding a phone displaying the social media app X, formerly Twitter.
Twitter, rebranded as X, was acquired by Elon Musk in 2022 for $44 billion | Photo: Julian Christ

Elon Musk’s next-generation craft reached space for the first time on November 18th. But when it comes to the digital world, Musk-owned social media platform X, formerly Twitter, could lose as much as $75 million in advertising revenue by the end of 2023, the New York Times has reported on Friday.

The entrepreneur backing an antisemitic post on the platform last week has led several companies including content giants Walt Disney and Warner Bros Discovery to pause their advertisements on the site – and these were not the only ones.

According to the New York Times, Internal X documents reviewed by the publication reportedly showed more than 200 ad units of major brands such as Airbnb, IBM, Coca-Cola and Microsoft that have either halted or considered pausing ad spending on the platform recently. On Friday X said that a whopping $11 million in revenue was at risk and the exact figure fluctuated due to some advertisers returning to the platform and others increasing their spending, according to the report by the Times.

After the backlash, Elon Musk said that X Corp. will donate any revenue the social media platform generates from advertising and subscriptions linked to the war in Gaza to hospitals in Israel as well as to the Red Cross in Gaza.

This is not the first time revenue at X had revenue worries in the past few months, with Reuters previously reporting that X’s ad revenue has declined at least 55% year-over-year each month since Musk’s takeover.

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Instagram now allows users to block the app from tracking what they do online



A hand of a man scrolling through Instagram on his mobile phone
Meta has also announced a way to transfer your photos and videos from Instagram to other services | Photo: Erik Lucatero

Social media users not wanting to leave a history of online usage can now turn off the Instagram’s ability to track what other apps and websites they use, and can see and manage which companies are collecting their data, Meta has announced earlier this week.

Meta will now let you block Instagram from collecting your data across the apps and websites you visit. The company has started allowing users to review which businesses are sharing information with Meta, disconnect specific activity, as well as clear the collected information.

The move, which has been welcomed by users sharing the news online, comes as a new report suggests Meta may move to a subscription model in Europe to avoid the EU entanglements around advertising and privacy; according to the New York Times, the  “pay to play” model would apply to Facebook and Instagram, but not WhatsApp. 

How to block Instagram from tracking what you do online

To find and enable the Activity Off-Meta Technologies, you can access Accounts Center on Instagram by heading to Settings and privacy and selecting Accounts Center. This menu is also present on Facebook and Messenger.

Previously it was available only for Facebook. Meta receives information from third-party websites that use its business tools, such as the Meta Pixel, which tracks users on the web and allows Meta to serve personalized ads on its platforms.

Meta also announced a few other features coming to the Accounts Center, including a way to transfer your photos and videos from Instagram to other services. Additionally, you can now download information from both your Facebook and Instagram accounts at the same time. Meta previously only let you download information separately, which you can still choose to do.

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