instagram pictures
Credit: By YashilG on Pixabay

Earlier this month, Instagram turned five years old, and since it launched in 2010, more than 40 billion images have been uploaded on the platform.

News organisations now have one or more Instagram accounts for distributing and sourcing news and some have developed formats to either engage with audiences in a different way, or reach people who might be exclusively consuming news on Instagram.

Here are three examples of how publishers are thinking about their Instagram presence and the relationship they can build with their communities.

BBC News

The BBC has developed a format called BBC Shorts, and the videos are uploaded to the main BBC News Instagram account in English, but also on BBC language service accounts and their respective Facebook pages in order to reach a global audience.

Maria Grechaninova, senior broadcast journalist with the BBC's Global Content Hub, said the time constraint of Instagram videos used to be a limitation in the beginning, but the broadcaster has turned this into an advantage, coming up with "a way of turning every news story into a 15-second, self-contained story".

Grechaninova told that a short could be anything from BBC Panorama or BBC Click footage, to big news stories or events that start trending on social media.

BBC Shorts work with and without sound, providing a text summary or quote alongside the video, in order to still get the message across to the audience.

A second format developed for Instagram are BBC Go Figure stills, which usually represent two significant numbers from a news event that can often "shed new light to a story".

Each BBC Short or Go Figure includes a link to a longer video, a wider story or a larger BBC project in order to provide additional information or put the story in context.

"But we think of each video or image as a proper BBC story, so if someone doesn't want to read more, those 15 seconds would be balanced and informative," said Grechaninova.

She pointed out that because Instagram doesn't allow clickable links in post descriptions, people might go to the BBC website for additional information, but "it would be difficult to trace the percentage of traffic coming from the platform".

"Sometimes we feel that some people in our audience don't necessarily follow our website and for them, [Instagram] is their way of being exposed to BBC material," she added.

"Some stories are quite difficult to tell, but we try to find an angle that makes them relevant for a global audience."

La Cronaca Italiana

La Cronaca Italiana is the social title of Italian news group AGL, Gruppo Editoriale Espresso, which publishes 18 local newspapers across Italy and has a central newsroom based in Rome.

While it doesn't have a standalone website, La Cronaca Italiana does have a collective digital presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram, but how can this be leveraged to build a relationship with local communities?

"Instagram doesn't drive traffic to your website and also, news doesn't tend to break on Instagram," said Andrea Iannuzzi, editor-in-chief of AGL.

"So we had this idea of getting people involved with our work by giving them the keys to our home – they were given the username and password to our Instagram account and told to run it together with us."

La Cronaca Italiana partnered with Instagrammers Italia, an association which has local chapters in different regions and cities across Italy.

In total, five different communities took over the outlet's Instagram account during an experiment over the summer, but with no editorial input from Iannuzzi's team.

"We just told them to tell stories – through images of landscapes, people, jobs, but especially, with emotions, "Iannuzzi said, "we never had to moderate any of the material that came through."

He added that some of the images the editorial team hadn't necessarily thought of sharing on Instagram, such as pictures of regional food or traditions, became the most successful and "people in those communities taught us how we should tell their stories".

Tenzone Aurea 2015 - nel weekend scorso a Ferrara si sono tenute le gare nazionali degli sbandieratori e musici, la città ha ospitato quasi 1000 atleti che si sono sfidati in questa particolare disciplina. La Tenzone Aurea è legata al Palio di Ferrara, la cui prima corsa risale storicamente al 1259, pertanto è ritenuto il Palio più antico d'Italia. Durante il mese di maggio, ogni anno, la città si veste a festa con le bandiere delle 8 contrade, ci sono rievocazioni storiche e gare di sbandieratori, mentre le corse finali si svolgono l'ultimo weekend del mese. Partecipando al Palio di Ferrara si può scoprire l'anima medioevale della città (nella foto sbandieratori in azione sul sagrato della Cattedrale) === Fino al 30 settembre l'account sarà gestito dalla community di @igersferrara; seguiteci per conoscere meglio Ferrara e provincia. Foto di: @vincenzodangelo9693 #igersferrara #igersemiliaromagna #dafareaferrara #dafareinemiliaromagna #igersgelocal #igersitalia #lacronacaitaliana #lanuovaferrara #turismoferrara #visitferrara #turismoer #comunediferrara

A photo posted by La Cronaca Italiana (@lacronacaitaliana) on Sep 16, 2015 at 11:08pm PDT

For example, the agency didn't have a reporter on the ground during the Venice Film Festival, so the Instagrammers Venice group covered the event on Instagram, helping to establish a "more professional relationship" between the outlet and the community.

By the end of the summer, La Cronaca Italiana gathered 10 times its number of initial followers on Instagram and hundreds of pictures were uploaded.

In the future, Iannuzzi said he would like to extend the experiment to other social media platforms, such as Facebook and "stop thinking about the business and revenue aspect first, but rather connect with our local communities and keeping that relationship alive".

CNN International

At CNN, Instagram is used both for distribution and newsgathering.  Linnie Rawlinson, executive producer for CNN International, said the platform helps strengthen the broadcaster's presence on the ground, but also provides "insightful views of what happens in the field and behind the scenes".

Some of CNN's Instagram initiatives include CNN In the Air, which asked people to submit pictures they'd taken from plane windows around the world, but also My India CNN, which gathered 2,000 responses.

"It gave us an authentic look into the country and I think those views and insights are the ones you simply can't see if you just have a relatively limited team of journalists there," Rawlinson said.

"If you think about the structure of a traditional newsroom, partnering with platforms such as Instagram actually gives you access to millions of extra potential journalists who can contribute to stories."

Submissions gathered through Instagram experiments don't just stay on Instagram however, and images are often compiled into 'social media walls' and featured on, using tools like Storify or Livefyre.

"You get the impact of an individual Instagram still, but you also get a sense of everyone having participated," Rawlinson said, "and I think one of the powers of Instagram is that it allows you to tap into people's passions in quite an intimate way and bring them through in a way that feels very authentic."

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