Is Vero the next Instagram for artists who don’t want to make Reels?

In 2018 the “ad-free, algorithm-free” social network was pegged as the next Instagram. Now, as artists question their place on Instagram once more, we investigate if Vero is a viable next step.

Date
10 August 2022

From an online petition to Kylie Jenner’s own Instagram story, the tail end of June 2022 was filled with one online rallying cry: “Make Instagram Instagram again.” You’re probably already familiar with the story. The protest was short-lived; Instagram quickly announced it would be rolling back the changes it had made to the site – most of which revolved around prioritising video content through Reel recommendations and a full-screen feed.

While the updates have ceased for now, this is not an event in a vacuum. Alongside this slow and steady shift towards video content, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in engagement for in-feed posts on Instagram since 2019, according to social media scheduler Later. As a result, visual artists who make static work have been questioning how they will share their pieces with audiences going forward. And that’s where Vero came in.

During Instagram’s updates in June, many artists expressed their frustrations at a drop in engagement – one artist, Jim Stoten, even posted a series of Reels of himself “doing nothing” to show his dissatisfaction with the prioritisation of video content. In an attempt to find a viable solution, or simply another way to protest against the changes, many artists reported moving to Vero.

Launched in 2015, Vero is a social media platform built on a subscription-based model, to remain free of ads. It’s also free of algorithms; posts appear in reverse chronological order on your feed rather than via suggested content. One creative who has tipped Vero as the next platform for artists is photographer Anthony Prothero. “Vero feels like a good choice because of its algorithm, advertising and data mining-free approach,” the creative tells us. “Aesthetically it feels a calmer, less competitive space to exhibit still works away from the moving image space. It looks great too!”

Artist and designer Lou Taylor also set up a Vero account, although the creative reports: “All I could see on there were artists frustrated with Instagram rather than potential clients/customers/galleries, etc.” This is an issue inherent with hunting for any new social media option – the platform needs to gain traction fast to offer significant networking potential. Currently, Vero’s total user number pales in comparison to Instagram’s, so Lou is not “sure how useful it is currently for potential sales etc, which is an important part of why we’re on it”.

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Copyright © Vero, 2022

Among the many artists and artist platforms that tried out Vero last month is Artist Support Pledge (ASP), a non-profit company set up during lockdown aiming to create a sustainable economy for artists. “Image makers are on borrowed time with IG and FB [Instagram and Facebook],” the organisation wrote in a recent Instagram post. “Both are moving towards a video format. We currently have a short reprieve. They are both driven by advertisements, and ads do better on video by a long way. We need an alternative platform that has a subscription model and is effective at sharing images using a hashtag.” However, on 2 August ASP announced it would be suspending its account, citing a story that also drove away many users who signed up in 2018.

In February 2018, 500,000 users reportedly joined Vero within 24 hours on iOS alone in the US, according to data from Sensor Tower. The same year, a 2016 story emerged in which Reuters reported that Saudi Oger (a construction company that Vero CEO Ayman Hariri previously worked at as deputy CEO) had left workers “stranded for months in crowded dormitories at labour camps with little money and limited access to food, water or medical care”. Ayman Hariri shared a document to prove he was neither financially tied to Saudi Oger or involved in running the company when these issues arose, showing his divestiture. Last month the story resurfaced, prompting some artists to delete their newly created accounts. ASP wrote on Instagram that the news story “puts a question mark over Vero ethically”. It continued: “Of course, Instagram and Facebook are not without problems. Indeed, Instagram’s own internal research reveals that ‘We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls’.”

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Copyright © Vero, 2022

So, where does this leave creatives wanting to share their artwork with an online audience? For Anthony, Vero remains the “best of a bad bunch”. He continues: “I want to see what else is uncovered about Vero, but I think the only real ethical decision is to not support any of these corporations. For me, this would look like going back to using my website journal and newsletter.” After seeing ASP’s post, Lou on the other hand is not sure whether to keep a Vero account. ASP’s Instagram statement continued: “Social media is a tool, and it is not without moral and ethical concerns in whatever direction we choose. Perhaps the question we need to ask is, what is the greater good we can serve?”

While a move to Vero might not be the long-term solution many creatives were looking for, the drive of users to the platform from Instagram is a symptom of a larger need in the industry for a viable and fair platform to engage with creatively. Whether such a model is workable in today’s climate – and what it might look like – remains to be seen.

GalleryCopyright © Vero, 2022

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Copyright © Vero, 2022

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.

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