How publishers are preparing for the Instagram algorithm

Instagram’s new top-secret algorithm is soon to bring order to people’s news feeds based on engagement. The impending shift has publishers reconsidering how they post to the platform.

The photo-sharing app has said it would order photos in feeds based on “the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.”

While beloved publishers may have an advantage over consumer brands, the coming change means uncertainty for a platform that’s become an increasingly important engagement tool. Newswhip found that engagement on Instagram is frequently higher than it is on Facebook. Publications such as National Geographic, Vogue and New York have made a concerted effort to build big followings on the platform.

So while it may be too early for them to make wholesale shifts, publishers are preparing for the change by diversifying their Instagram accounts, focusing on how natural their content feels to their readership, and more closely monitoring their engagement numbers.

GQ, for one, is taking a niche approach by focusing on its multiple Instagram accounts that are tailored to narrow interests, said Mike Hofman, executive digital director for GQ. Two, @gq_castings and @gq_guys, feature models who visit GQ’s offices every day, have 44,4000 and 105,000 followers, respectively, and provide “multiple opportunities to reach GQ readers on Instagram,” Hofman said.

Others are tapping into their experience with Instagram parent Facebook’s past algorithm changes. Callia Hardgrove, social media editor of Vox Media’s Racked, thinks the Instagram algorithm will be hard on bloggers and favor publishers, at least in the fashion industry. If Instagram’s algorithm is similar to Facebook’s, she expects Racked’s engagement to soar.

Publishers have been posting more to Instagram. From April 2015 to the end of this past February, the number of monthly Instagram posts per publisher rose 57 percent to 84, according to TrackMaven, which looked at posts across 48 top publishers. But in an algorithm-driven world, quality trumps quantity, if experience with Facebook is a guide.

Bleacher Report ranked second among publishers by Newswhip with 19.6 million engagements in March, behind only Nat Geo. One reason is probably because it had the highest number of posts, at 441, to Nat Geo’s 268. Rory Brown, president of Bleacher Report, said he’s not planning to dramatically reduce that, but will keep the bar high on quality.

It’s assumed that branded content also could take a hit on the new Instagram, as brands (and their output) often lack a connection with readers. So for publishers that monetize Instagram this way, the bar will be higher for such posts.

For Bleacher Report, that means focusing on branded content ads that will feel natural to readers. “The publishers that collaborate really well with advertisers to create really compelling content, that content is going to be seen by more people than ever,” Brown said.

More in Media

Media Briefing: Publishers who bet on events and franchises this year are reaping the rewards

Tentpole events and franchises are helping publishers lock in advertising revenue.

With Firefly Image 3, Adobe aims to integrate more AI tools for various apps

New tools let people make images in seconds, create image backgrounds, replacing parts of an image and use reference images to create with AI.

Publishers revamp their newsletter offerings to engage audiences amid threat of AI and declining referral traffic

Publishers like Axios, Eater, the Guardian, theSkimm and Snopes are either growing or revamping their newsletter offerings to engage audiences as a wave of generative AI advancements increases the need for original content and referral traffic declines push publishers to find alternative ways to reach readers.