Originally posted on petapixel.
Instagram appears poised to launch more widespread testing of paid creator subscriptions, a feature that would allow accounts to provide specialized content to “fans” and would allow them to generate income directly in the app.
TechCrunch reports that “Instagram Subscriptions” were added as an option for in-app purchases in the United States iOS App Store according to multiple sources who monitor additions to the App Store, and a few social media consultants have recently tweeted about the new listings for subscriptions.
The appearance of these options has led many to believe that the subscriptions will roll out to to more people in testing soon. Historically, Instagram tests new features in phases, first in small groups, then in larger groups before pushing the feature to everyone.
In early spring, The Information reported that Instagram was “exploring” the possibility of adding subscriptions to its system that would allow content creators on the platform to offer paid memberships to followers. At the time, the concept centered on the ability for accounts to sell access to exclusive material, similar to Patreon. Since then, Behance launched a similar system onto its platform that allows creators to provide exclusive content in exchange for a membership fee. Behance, and its parent company Adobe, do not take a cut of this transaction, which is different than how Patreon works and how Instagram appears to be developing its application of the feature.
In late summer, reverse engineer expert Alessandro Paluzzi discovered the feature as a work in progress in the app and that the initial developments he found showed that subscribers would get a special member badge and gain access to exclusive live videos.
The addition of subscriptions would prove to be a massive boon for some creators and would create a kind of revenue-sharing model that would directly pay content creators for engaging with specific users on Instagram. To this point, Instagram serves as a way for creators to work with brands on sponsorships to make money, but the app itself does not directly facilitate a way to generate income.
Instagram has not made any details about its efforts in the space known publicly yet, though the company’s head Adam Mosseri referenced this kind of addition to the app earlier this year. He also has said publicly that Instagram is moving away from being a photo-sharing platform and will focus more on video and shopping moving forward. These statements are somewhat confusing and conflicting, however. Photography accounts with huge followings will be one of the largest groups to benefit from a subscription model, yet Mosseri plans to move the platform beyond photography and more towards TikTok, at least based on his public statements.
Should this feature be fully launched, Instagram will be one of the last platforms for creators to offer this kind of subscription model. As mentioned, Patreon and Behance both have already launched the functionality on their platforms, and TikTok, Snap, Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter all have either already released or are poised to launch some kind of subscription program.