Instagram beats Twitter in user engagement

A man shows the smartphone photo sharing application Instagram on an iPhone on April 10, 2012 in Paris.

People are spending more time sharing photos on Instagram than they are writing or reading on Twitter.  The new numbers are a surprise, given how Twitter-style microblogging is supposed to change the way we interrelate. But sending a picture of Dmitri the goldfish via Instagram?

Slate Magazine's tech blogger Will Oremus says this tells us something important about being human. "Instagram has been able to capitalize very, very rapidly on that impulse that we all have to snap a picture," Oremus says. "Twitter is a bit of a different proposition. For all of the stereotypes about people just Tweeting about their lunch, it does require some intellectual confidence."

So, the world has more snap-happy camera phone users than tortured writers, even writers who love brevity. In April, Facebook bought Instagram for about a billion dollars, but Oremus notes the challenge: popularity doesn't equal cash.

"Twitter in 2012 apparently is expected to make about $140 million in mobile ads," he says. Instagram, on the other hand, doesn't make any money at the moment. "It's a lot easier to get a bunch of customers for your service when you're giving it away for free."

The comScore numbers put Instagram at 7.3 million daily users last month, compared to Twitter's 6.9 million.


Now, at Marketplace Tech we can see into the future and here's what will happen:  Jobs in America will be part of the national conversation next week. The topic should come up during the first Presidential debate Wednesday night. The people behind a company called Elance thinks in the future, more of us will be freelancers hooked up to jobs online. Fabio Rosati is the Elance CEO.

"We think we’re at the beginning of a phenomenon of mainstream freelancing," says Rosati. "The survey that we just concluded indicates the majority of the people that are using our model are hugely optimistic about their future, they’re seeing their earnings grow substantially -- over 50 percent year over year."

Rosati says the growth can be attributed not just to people being forced into a freelance lifestyle, but many who also discover it works for them, especially in an increasingly digitally driven world.

"It’s increasingly becoming a choice," he says. "So not doubt, many people discovered the model of freelancing out of necessity. Over 50 percent of our youth is unemployed, and some of them are looking for full time opportunities, others are discovering either through friends or at school the opportunity to work online as freelancers. They are increasingly successful. They are able to control their careers and predict their future."

Elance's CEO admits that countries enjoying some form of nationalized health care system have an advantage, because elsewhere the freelance lifestyle is often missing the kind of benefits a fulltime salaried position offers. But he's also optimistic that in the next several years, that will change in the U.S. and elsewhere.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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