Pinterest is making its first major change to Instapaper since acquiring the read-it-later service in August 2016. But it’s not the one you may have expected from an ad-supported company.
Instead of syndicating its own ads on Instapaper’s site and apps, Pinterest is pulling all ads from Instapaper. It’s not a massive change; Instapaper’s apps never featured ads, and its site wasn’t overloaded with ads. But it’s a departure from other “tech platform buys media property” deals like Facebook–Instagram, Yahoo–Tumblr and Google–YouTube that led to an influx of the platform’s ads onto the properties.
But advertising isn’t the only revenue stream Pinterest is eliminating from Instapaper. The company is also turning its $2.99-a-month subscription product, Instapaper Premium, into a free service. As a result, now anyone using Instapaper will be able to search for text within articles, listen to computer-voiced versions of saved articles, get unlimited use of Instapaper’s speed-reading and annotations features and send articles saved to Instapaper to their Amazon Kindles.
Pinterest’s plan appears to be to give people more reasons to use Instapaper to grow its audience, and then figure out how to make money from that increased audience base. That could lead to Pinterest’s ads eventually making their way onto Instapaper’s site and even its apps. But it doesn’t have to.
Two of Instapaper’s previously paid-only, now-free features could be particularly valuable to Pinterest beyond Instapaper: full-text search of articles and unlimited notes. What words or phrases people are searching for within articles and what they’re writing to annotate articles are new signals that Pinterest — which fancies itself as much of a search engine as a social network — can use when figuring out what organic content and ads to show people on Pinterest and potentially on Instapaper.