Mike Isaac

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Instagram Adds Web Embedding in Bid for Real-Time Relevance

instagram3_systrom1The real-time battle rages on.

Instagram on Wednesday announced the latest in a string of recent updates, now allowing users to embed videos and photos taken with the photo-sharing application on sites across the Web. Simply cut and paste the embed text from an Instagram page to your blog, and the video will appear on your page after publishing.

On the one hand, it’s not a revolutionary feature. Web embeds have been available for all sorts of media — including the Twitter-owned Vine, ostensibly Instagram’s most viable video competitor — for quite some time. It’s a simple way to push distribution of your media on other sites across the Web, especially helpful if your own site isn’t a primary, go-to destination in and of itself.

But this isn’t just a distribution play, or even an affront simply to Vine. Instagram wants to own “real time,” a space long ago staked out by Twitter as the go-to option for global discussion on an event when it’s happening. The Boston Marathon bombings, the Oscars, a tornado on the ground — they’re all moments that require a fast, lightweight tool to capture them. And when those moments are captured well, much of the world’s attention can focus on them.

For now, Twitter’s supremacy in this field is unquestionable. Short message blasts sent out by whoever is on the ground at an event have been the perfect way of capturing what’s going on, fast.

Instagram, however, has made the case that it is even better for capturing those moments due to the nature of its medium. While Twitter text is somewhat universal — barring translatable text, that is (which Twitter is currently working on) — a photo is understandable across all cultures. That’s a big competitive advantage.

And the Instagram app — not the Facebook app — is far and away the closest tool Facebook has to competing with Twitter’s real-time nature.

So now the ideal places to make “real time” synonymous with each service are the organizations that the public has traditionally gone to for what’s happening in the world: News orgs. Convince journalists to embed tweets, videos and photos into their stories, and readers will begin to realize the value each service has in capturing moments in real time.

Twitter already has a leg up here, with an entire wing (albeit a small one) dedicated to pitching journalists and working with them to embed tweets and Vines into their stories. But in the future, Instagram plans to focus on this, as well. Expect dueling pictures and photos in your news stories in the near term.

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