With “Discover the Magic of the Internet” as their tagline, Imgur does an incredible job at this. The American image-sharing community and image host first came to be in 2009 and has been increasing in popularity ever since.
But what has helped them remain? How are they able to sustain themselves, or more accurately, what’s their funding strategy and business model? Jump into the details of this article to find out.
What is Imgur?
Imgur is a popular domain for hosting memes and viral images, especially ones that have been posted on Reddit. You can start liking and posting memes from the moment you create an account. But if that’s how things work, how can Imgur create revenue?
How Does Imgur Make Money?
Imgur actually has multiple revenue streams that have only been growing ever since the site launched back in 2009. These streams are as follows:
Ads for Free Users
Since Imgur allows users to enjoy the full experience for free, said experience is not ad-free. In fact, ads are perhaps the greatest source of revenue for Imgur. Much like Facebook and Google, a huge part of their revenue is attributed to the money they get from the ads on the website. And after all, to get an ad-free experience, you have to pay for a subscription to a premium account.
For every page request, there are countless requests to adverts and trackers that all pay money to the website.
You can use website traffic statistics and analytics services to check the average visitors Imgur gets per month, which would be around 270 million for the current time being.
If on average, Adsense CPMs (clicks per thousand impressions) ranges between a dollar to three dollars, taking an average of 2 dollars, for every 1,000 impressions, and Imgur pages usually have 4 ad units, then you can calculate the ad revenue.
Earnings = (270,000,000 / 1000) impressions * 4 ad units * $2 CPM =$2,160,000
So that’s around 2 million dollars per month from ad revenue alone. Pretty neat and sustainable if you ask me.
Tip: There’s a sneaky method that Imgur might resort to in which you have to click the back button multiple times before you’re back to the original page (say Reddit.com). This reloads the page multiple times, and thus the ads as well.
Advertising Solutions for Advertisers
Imgur is augmenting its ad revenue in a simple yet effective way: providing a safe and positive place for advertisers, which is far superior to other parts of the internet.
With more than 250 million users per month, Imgur was able to launch more than 300 campaigns and augment their direct revenue by more than 675%
The way they pitch themselves to those who want to buy ads is that they’re a place people resort to when they want to disconnect during their downtime instead of being under the pressure of seeking validation and proving themselves.
They’ve even added Huseby to their team in 2017 after having worked at Fandom for eight years. Huseby worked on expanding the ad sales team, and Imgur in the beginnings of 2019 had 24 people out of its 80 employees (now ranging from 50 to 200) working on brand partnerships.
There are plenty of ad formats that a user can benefit from on Imgur, including display ads, mobile banners, promoted posts, and web and mobile videos as well.
Promoted posts come at a flat fee as they’re displayed to all users instead of being targeted to a subset of users. How extensive you want the branding to be or the commitment to be is what determines the final cost.
Most promoted posts undergo creative repurposing, where the team at Imgur incorporates the brand’s assets to produce an “Imgurized” version of the asset. This means that they add green upvote arrows, cats, or the Imgur Giraffe, which is the official mascot of the website.
When all is said and done, it’s a great medium to reach a huge number of people, especially if your audience comprises millennial males—the largest segment present on the website.
Analytics Services for Businesses
Imgur informs you of all the data you’re curious about. A real-time, 360-degree, eagle-eye look at its users, including who they are, their location, and their trends in consuming content.
This is pretty hard, with 270 million active and around 75+ billion image views per month. It takes a long time to perform complicated queries on the data, and people without a technical background found it impossible to make sense of said data.
That’s why Imgur came up with an analytics solution to manage the gigantic volumes of data it collects, which is to deliver quick responses and scale up to manage the ever-increasing volumes. In this process, they put two things as their top priority: scale and speed.
They used Interana.com to manage the billions of clicks, events, page views, and scrolls that are associated with their users. Thanks to its user interface, anyone can ask questions, and multiple people can obtain insights into business performance or user behavior.
As a user, you can view plenty of analytics from any post you choose. The stats include usage bandwidth, favorites, comments, votes, and views. You can click the number of points the post has earned between the voting buttons to find the stats of this particular post.
What’s more, you can get all the stats related to any of your uploaded memes and images if you’re logged in to your Imgur account. All you have to do is go to your Uploaded Images page from the menu in the corner menu on the right, choose a thumbnail, and hover over the image. Then, a bar will appear above the image with all the associated analytics.
Use of API for Developers
If you’re a curious developer, you can make use of Imgur’s API. While the API is free for users with non-commercial plans, there’s money involved if it’s going to be used commercially, which is another revenue stream, though not the one they depend on the most.
Tip: If the user doesn’t plan on making money with it, or if it’s open-source, then it’s a free application.
If you plan to make money with it, which includes in-app advertising, then you have to use Imgur’s API commercially. In this case, you’ll have to register with RapidAPI with multiple pricing plans according to your needs. Pricing plans include:
- Basic: The Basic subscription is free and suits people who only need the essentials to help them get started fast. With it, you can get 100,000 requests per month and 10,000 uploads per month. Quite suitable for most people.
- Pro: The Pro plan costs $25 per month and suits professionals whose application requires more volume. It provides you with 600,000 requests per month and 60,000 uploads per month.
- Ultra: The Ultra plan costs $250 per month and best suits professionals that work on large-scale applications. It provides the user with 7,500,000 requests and 750,000 uploads per month.
- Mega: You can get 150,000,000 requests and 15,000,000 uploads monthly for $4000 per month. This plan suits businesses who are on a production-level use and need super high volume.
Monetizing Memes (Coil and Emerald)
As of recently, Imgur has been moving toward giving meme creators their share of profit for making people laugh fair and square. With close to 300 million users per month on this magical app and website, Imgur wants to give back and allow creators to make money by paying them for each second that people view their content.
In 2019, Imgur raised a $20 million venture equity round from Coil. Imgur built into this micropayment tool’s service and decided to launch a premium subscription plan with features and content that is exclusive to Coil members.
Here’s how it goes: Users make a fixed monthly payment to Coil, install an associated browser extension, and Coil pays meme-makers through dollars or XRP tokens per second that any subscriber spends viewing their content. The rate is 36 cents per hour and is made possible by the Interledger protocol used to route assets around.
This way, the meme maker, Imgur, and Coil would all make money and diversify the website’s revenue to extend beyond ads while helping dedicated comedians make some money.
Ripple Labs’ Xpring and Monetization
Not only that, but Ripple Labs’ Xpring Initiative also took part in this partnership by giving Coil the money it invested in Imgur, about 1 billion XRP, and all of this is aimed at integrating the Ripple XRP into the ecosystem of nonprofits, companies, developers, and creators that use XRP through the Web Monetization open standard. However, Imgur did receive their part of the funding in US dollars.
What Coil is hoping to do is to create a third business model for the internet that enables creators to make money without raising societal problems like the ones that happened with Facebook. It wants to steer away from the typical ways of making money through either ads or subscriptions, which is a pretty brilliant innovation.
It’s worth mentioning that it doesn’t work like Patreon as you don’t just pick a couple of creators and select how much to pay each of them per month. Coil actually allows you to browse content from several creators, and it pays them according to the interactions they get as well as the traffic they drive.
The extensions are available for both Chrome and Firefox, but still, they’re trying to integrate them into browsers natively.
To subscribe to Coil, users pay $5 per month for an open beta version. And to know which users to send money to, Imgur can code in tags to their pages that direct Coil’s Web Monetization API’s payments.
It doesn’t stop there. In May 2020, Imgur launched Emerald in alpha on desktop, and Coil members had an exclusive sneak peek at it.
- Ad-Free Browsing: Where users can enjoy scrolling through endless memes and images on Imgur without the hassle of ads and promoted posts.
- Unlocking Unique Avatars and Trophies: This makes the user’s experience more personal and special. Not to mention, it gives it a rewarding feel with the Emerald trophy that everyone will marvel at.
- Accessing Founder’s Club: There’s a Founder’s Club status that’s given to existing Coil members that activate Imgur Emerald in alpha.
- Supporting Imgur: By doing so, users are given a higher degree of freedom to build community-first features.
Coil members get to browse Imgur without any ads and are provided with multiple features that are unique and exclusive to members. The Emerald experience is an ad-free, desktop one. It doesn’t even have any promoted posts or display ads.
As you can see, as any wise investor, Imgur makes sure to diversify their portfolio and create multiple streams of income. Not only that, but they’re always working on expanding their services, making them more personalized, and doing partnerships with other parties to make the experience beneficial to everyone.
To wrap things up, Imgur’s main revenue source is the ads that users see. With 4 ads on each page and 2 dollars for every 1,000 impressions, it’s clear to see why ads are critical to the website’s money-making strategy. There are also other revenue sources like paid advertisements, analytics services, APIs for developers, and monetizing memes or images.