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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Millions of dollars are being spent across apps, sets and props to help people project perfectly curated images for Instagram photos, Boomerangs and stories.

Why it matters: Instagram has exploded as the primary visual medium for social networkers around the world, with more than 1 billion users worldwide. Companies, influencers and everyday users are willing to pay big bucks to look their best.

By the numbers: In 2018, about 53% of the U.S. social network users will access Instagram at least once a month — a number expected to grow, per eMarketer.

  • Instagram has become central to public images, even for youth. Instagram usage among teens in the U.S. is growing at the fastest rate, according to the latest survey from Piper Jaffray.

Creators of Unfold, an app that makes Instagram story templates, has proved that users are willing to pay for flawless Instagram story design.

  • With 11 million users, at a rate of 100,000 app downloads per day, the company is set to bring in $2.6 million in revenue for 2018, per Fast Company.
  • Celebrities have driven the app's popularity. In-app purchases with new templates and designs help with retention rates, a challenge app developers have, CNBC reports.

Instagrammers are paying to wait in line at Instagram Museums, which are well-lit, aesthetically-pleasing rooms with props — a perfect recipe for candid photos on social media.

  • In New York City, people are paying $45 a ticket to wait in line at the Rosé Mansion, a pop-up set up for luxurious photo-ops.
  • The Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco, 29Rooms and the Color Factory both in NYC are also popular photo-taking destinations.

Some companies are tapping into the popularity of Instagram stories and the purchasing power of celebrities and influencers who have large followings.

The bottom line: Businesses like Unfold are partnering with Instagram for a more seamless interface. Though Snapchat has the highest usage among teens, users are adopting Instagram at a faster rate.

Go deeper

Go deeper

Private colleges across America can't pay their bills

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Behind the scenes in colleges across the U.S., institutions are having trouble paying their bills.

Why it matters: There’s a reckoning coming in higher education — especially for smaller, private liberal arts schools — that’s been years in the making. In obvious ways, COVID accelerated some of the trends, but college finances have been hurting for a while.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
38 mins ago - Health

Special report: America's biggest hospitals vs. their patients

Expand chart
Data: JHU; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

More than a quarter of the 100 U.S. hospitals with the highest revenue sued patients over unpaid medical bills between 2018 and mid-2020, according to new research by Johns Hopkins University provided exclusively to Axios.

Why it matters: The report suggests that, rather than being an anomaly, patient lawsuits are relatively common across the country and among the largest providers.

39 mins ago - Technology
Column / Tech Agenda

The next big social network: Nextdoor

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nextdoor, the neighborhood social network, has seen explosive growth over the past two years as homebound users became more fixated on what was happening on a hyper-local level.

Why it matters: Such rapid growth comes with challenges. What was once a niche social network is now so popular that it's grappling with some of the same thorny problems plaguing Facebook and Twitter, such as content moderation.