Instaspam? Introducing Instagram’s new email digest

The Guardian // 02nd June 2015

Powered by article titled “Instaspam? Introducing Instagram’s new email digest” was written by Alex Hern, for on Monday 25th May 2015 10.13 UTC

Do you like receiving email? Do you have an Instagram account? Then we have good news for you. The photo-sharing network is going to start taking its lead from parent company Facebook and sending regular email updates to users collating the best posts from people they follow.

If you don’t like receiving email, and have an Instagram account, then we have bad news. The same thing’s going to happen to you as well.

The new email digests, called “highlights”, are similar to those sent out by Twitter, and are designed to solve the same problem in both cases: keeping users engaged with a network that presents updates in reverse-chronological order. That format is perfect for ensuring that content remains fresh, but creates the risk of missing the best posts due to users not being online at the right time.

The app is already one of the thirstiest around when it comes to push notifications, sending users a reminder not just when they have unseen interactions but also reminding them, if they haven’t opened the app for a while, that some of their friends have posted pictures that they haven’t seen.

TechCrunch’s Josh Constine explains Instagram’s issue: the site “has ‘300 million monthly users’, but that’s an imprecise statistic encompassing some who hardly check it. To accomplish its mission of sharing moments and fuel its ad-based business model, it needs us to voraciously browse its feed,” he says.

“Highlights could remind people what they’re missing when they don’t open Instagram,” Constine adds.

The email digest also comes at the right time culturally. After a period in the doldrums, email newsletters are on the up, with people and organisations as diverse as Kickstarter (whose Happening email contains “links we like” as well as a curated selection of crowdfunding projects) and copyright lawyers Parker Higgins and Sarah Jeong (whose Five Useful Articles contains just that, focused around presenting news and updates relating to IP law in a humorous and accessible way).

Of course, those email updates are opt-in, requiring users to explicitly state that they want to be included, and they’re carefully and manually put together. Instagram’s Highlights, at least for the users who have received the early trials, is neither of those. There is an “unsubscribe” function, but Constine reports it doesn’t actually work yet. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010


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