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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Instagram is in the midst of a transformation — what was once the place to share photos of food and social outings is quickly becoming a hub for information and advocacy.

Why it matters: Text, infographics and topical illustrations are exploding on Instagram as the pandemic and racial justice movement brought purpose and focus to its millions of users, supercharging the urgency to get educated and share useful information.

The big picture: 2020 has been a perfect storm for this change: The pandemic put an end to all the fun that users typically posted, while also creating a pressing need for reliable health information.

  • The information ecosystems on Twitter and Facebook are well entrenched, leaving many people — particularly the younger-skewing Instagram crowd — to seek a new place to operate. And then in the wake of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor's killings, it was primed not just for information, but activism.

"Instagram felt like a place for a clean, fresh start," Mosheh Oinounou, a digital consultant and former TV news producer, tells Axios.

  • Oinounou over the past few months has created an informational Instagram, pulling in all of the latest headlines, numbers and fact checks about the pandemic.
  • "The summer of 2020 has been a time where Instagram Stories especially seem like a place where people are increasingly turning to charts, infographics, quotes and headlines because they feel overwhelmed by the news," he said.

By the numbers: Accounts that have leaned into this trend have seen their growth skyrocket.

Larger publishers are also benefitting from the trend. @ProPublica, which had already been posting text-centric information, saw 70% follower growth in the last 6 months, almost all coming since the onset of the pandemic in mid-March, according to CrowdTangle data.

  • This trend is altering publisher strategy as well: Refinery29 (2.4m followers) went from 41% text-based info posts in January to 72% in July, according to an Axios analysis, while Business Insider (2.3m) went from 5% to 48%.

Between the lines: A key shift in how information on Instagram spreads came in mid-2018, when the app allowed users to share posts from the feed to their Stories, unlocking a 1-to-many share mechanism that allowed posts to get massive audiences.

  • Instagram doesn't have a traditional share button to drive virality like other major social networks.
  • "That feature has been integral to the way that this information is able to travel," says Jen Winston who runs the progressive, info-centric @jenerous.

What to watch: As information and opinion become a bigger part of the Instagram experience, it could run into the same problems with disinformation that have plagued other major social networks — including Facebook, which owns Instagram.

Go deeper

Oct 30, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Instagram partners with ATTN: to encourage young people to vote

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Instagram is funding a slate of new memes, Reels, Stories and IGTV videos from ATTN:, the millennial-focused digital media company, to empower young people to vote.

Why it matters: Instagram and its parent Facebook are pushing to promote more civic engagement ahead of the election — and ATTN: is one of the top creators of social change-focused videos on the platform.

Momentum builds to ban lawmakers from trading stocks

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Some progressive Democrats and MAGA Republicans are uniting on a proposal to ban sitting lawmakers from trading individual stocks, although it's unlikely that leadership will bring the bill up for a vote.

Why it matters: Members of Congress have great power to move stock prices, and great financial incentives to do so.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: The Weather Prediction Center said in a storm summary Monday that winter storm warnings are still in effect for portions of the Central Appalachians, Ohio Valley, interior Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, while portions of the Central Appalachians and coastal New England are under high wind warnings.

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