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Credit: By emily.laurel504 on Flickr. Some Rights reserved.

Instagram announced it had reached 300 million users earlier this month, beating Twitter to the milestone figure.

Twitter currently has 284 million monthly users, while Facebook, which bought Instagram in 2012, has 1.35 billion.

The photo sharing app also launched new filters and additional photo editing tools last week.

So how are news organisations using Instagram images and short videos to tell stories and engage audiences?

Below are five formats news outlets have been using on Instagram, as well as some additional apps to help maximise the potential of Instagram posts:

Avoiding the square crop

Photos on Instagram are displayed as squares, so images taken outside the app will need to be cropped before publishing.

But users can get around this by adding a square frame around the photo and scaling the image to fit inside, without altering its proportions.

There are a number of apps that can do this for you, such as Squaready for iOS or #SquareDroid for Android – both are free to use.

Reuters makes heavy use of this strategy to share images taken by its professional photographers around the world without cropping them specifically for Instagram.

Photo collages

Through collages or photo grids, news outlets can show the scene of a news story from multiple angles in one post, or illustrate differences over time by placing images side by side.

CNN, which posts both video and still images on the platform, often illustrates news stories with collages on Instagram.

There are a number of free apps you can use to create collages for Instagram, such as Pic Stitch for iOS.

Android users could try Photo Grid. It not only makes collages, but it can also create an audio slideshow from images in your camera roll, which you can then upload to Instagram as a video.

Multimedia collages

A variation of the photo grid package, multimedia collages can be used to highlight a stand-out moment from a video.

CNN has been using this format as part of its video offering on Instagram, like the example below where a video clip has been placed above a selected still frame:


Uploading an image slideshow as a video to Instagram is an alternative to the photo collage, enabling journalists to explain a story through multiple images in one post without compromising on size.

Al Jazeera English, for example, posts slideshows of images from its 'In Pictures' section, often set to music without a voice-over.

The story is then explained in the photo caption, as the slideshow includes only a headline and a link to the section of the site where users can find out more.

Flipagram is an app for Apple devices, Android and Windows Phone creates video stories from images on your smartphone. PicFlow is another alternative for iOS.


NPR, who posts a combination of stills, collages and video, also shares illustrations alongside some of its stories on Instagram.

Created by designer and illustrator LA Johnson, the images are used, for example, to provide additional content to one element of the story, like this guide to roller derby rules accompanying a story about a teacher "skating out classroom stress as a 'Derby Dame'".

The illustrations are also used to present the top line of the story, like in the example below:

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