July 20, 2015

The first half of 2015 saw some high-profile uses of Instagram from news organizations.

In April, Time magazine gave the cover treatment to an Instagram photo from 26-year-old amateur photographer Devin Allen. In February, The Associated Press busted the high-rolling, photogenic Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock by zeroing in on images of his excursions uploaded to the social service. And when several journalists were murdered at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, multiple news organizations — including The Washington Post and Marie Claire — used Instagram to surface images taken in the aftermath of the slaughter.

That trend is only likely to accelerate in response to Monday’s update from the photo-sharing company. Starting today, Instagram users are now empowered to search through the service’s vast repository of images with a discovery tool built for the Web. The bottom line for photo editors and social media types at news organizations? No more bending over a smartphone while scouring the Web for user-generated content to run alongside articles.

Here’s what the interface looks like:

Credit: Instagram.

Credit: Instagram.

Among other things, the tool allows users to search accounts, locations and hashtags on the Web, bringing Instagram.com in line with an earlier update made to the mobile app. Geotags and hashtags now link out to their own dedicated landing pages, and each location and hashtag has its own top posts.

In an interview with Poynter, Instagram spokesperson Liz Bourgeois said the update is not aimed at news organizations specifically, but rather fits into a broader strategy for the image-sharing service.

“We’re committed to improving discovery on Instagram across mobile and Web,” Bourgeois said. “This update brings the Web experience to be more similar to what’s already possible on mobile. There’s an untapped potential for newsrooms and journalists to use Instagram as a source of content.”

Before today’s update, Instagram users were limited in how they navigated the social media service’s Web interface. Although they could view and interact with photos uploaded by users, there was no easy way to discover profile pages or examine posts around specific events and places. The most recent iteration of the website enables journalists and others to do that.

By way of example, Bourgeois said journalists looking to mine the Web for a specific type of photo can enter a location name (such as the Golden Gate Bridge), or an event (the Iowa State Fair) and cull the results for embeddable images.

“You have all the different options of how you might search for the subject matter that you’re looking for,” Bourgeois said.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
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