This week, Instagram introduced “Snap Stories” — excuse me, “Instagram Stories” (lol). The feature allows users to post images with text and drawings scribbled over them, all set to disappear in 24 hours. The thievery of Snapchat’s core concept is so ruthlessly obvious, it’s almost refreshing. Facebook (Instagram’s parent company) has a product graveyard filled with failed Snapchat imitators, but something weird is happening with Instagram Stories: People are using it, including a slew of celebrities.
The roster of famous new Instagram Stories fans could double as the invite list to Wilmer Valderrama’s notorious Tuesday night molly cookouts: Serena Williams, Ciara, Calvin Harris, Nick Jonas, Solange Knowles, Reese Witherspoon, Demi Lovato (they’re still friends), Karlie Kloss, my enemy Jonathan Cheban, Taylor Swift.
Celebrities love Instagram for many reasons (publicity, low-grade narcissism, lucrative sponsored-content opportunities, high-grade narcissism) but the rushed embrace of this knockoff feature is striking. I wondered: Are these celebs getting paid for this? I mean, obviously Instagram had some extra cash left over from its “new feature design” budget. Plus, Facebook previously enlisted celebrity mercenaries in its campaign to obliterate Twitter’s Periscope and other rival video-streaming services. Many famous people are compensated for using Facebook Live — for instance, Kevin Hart gets $600,000 for vlogging from his bed. So there’d be precedent for shelling out money in exchange for sweet, sweet engagement. And Facebook also courted famous types with its “celebrity” app, Mentions.
This time around, however, the company denies that money changed hands for celebrity posts.
“Instagram is not paying for stories content,” an Instagram spokesperson told me.
Perhaps Instagram is telling the truth. In that case, a new theory: Evan Spiegel, Snapchat’s founder, is engaged to Miranda Kerr, linchpin of one of the most gloriously convoluted and notorious celebrity love polygons of our time. Perhaps the Kerr–Spiegels are unpopular amongst other celebrity elites. Perhaps Facebook didn’t pay celebrities, but Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber teamed up in a “the enemy of my enemy who slept with our mutual ex-love-interest is my revenge-friend” situation, and they’ve convinced fellow famous people to join them in a battle against Snapchat. (Neither Bloom nor Bieber has shown in an Instagram Stories post yet, but that’d be too obvious.)
Perhaps A-listers have been huddled in Valderrama’s moon grotto, plotting for an opportunity to immediately embrace a rival’s flagrant copycat.
Or maybe they’re getting paid and Instagram is lying to me. We’ll likely never know.