Best of the week: Instagram has a pod problem

This week, our top stories examined the proliferation of Instagram comment pods, Amazon’s continued expansion and more. As always, a full list of these articles appears at the bottom.

Influencers team up to game Instagram’s algorithm
Instagram comment pods, groups of Instagrammers who work together to comment on each other’s posts, are growing in popularity among influencers on the platform. Because of how Instagram’s algorithm works (timeliness as well as the relationship between posters and users determines what users see in their feeds), Instagram “favors” pods, which means influencers in pods often appear in the Explore tab, leading to more visibility. The idea behind pods is to hack Instagram by increasing engagement.

A Facebook post from a user seeking to join a comment pod

Agencies evaluate influencers on size of audience, and influencers who have high engagement numbers command high prices. But brands and agencies no longer know if the engagement is genuine.

“For brands, working with an Instagrammer that is part of a pod may mean their own numbers are wrong,” said YouTuber and editor Zach Bussey. “If you had hoped to get your message in front of X number of people, if you subtract other pod members, that number is dramatically reduced.”

Amazon’s march into new spaces continues
Amazon has the attention of marketers and content creators as it expands. Here are some of the latest developments concerning the e-commerce giant:

  • Brands are integrating visual assets to their Amazon skills for the new Echo Show device, which is part touch screen and part voice assistant. For example, videos and images now accompany recipes that are part of Campbell’s enhanced Campbell’s Kitchen skill.
  • Video companies, including Funny Or Die, HowStuffWorks and Jash, are using Amazon Prime Video to premiere their shows.
  • With the launch of Amazon Pay Places, customers can pay using the Amazon mobile app at participating brick-and-mortar stores.
  • Amazon is reportedly thinking about venturing into editorial through a partnership with Violet Grey, an e-commerce site that sells beauty products and publishes beauty-related features and product reviews.

Stat of the week
The New York Times’ pop-up newsletter about “Game of Thrones” has amassed 61,000 subscribers in just three weeks.

Quote of the week
In the latest installment of our Confessions series, a magazine editor reveals one publication’s struggles in its transition to digital:

“We have a huge separation between magazine and web. There are people who don’t write for the web. They’re not made to, and they don’t understand the value of it. It’s two different audiences. The magazine people tend to get more of the resources. The transition hasn’t happened, and [the competition] is killing us.”

Interesting takes elsewhere:

  • The New York Times’ Sapna Maheshwari breaks down the Lyft-Taco Bell partnership that will let passengers stop at a Taco Bell drive-thru during rides.
  • Reuters’ Nandita Bose reports that Walmart is moving away from its Made in America campaign, searching for vendors from other countries to boost its online offerings.

This week’s top Digiday stories:

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