Pinterest acquires Instapaper, which will live on as a separate app

Pinterest said today that it would be acquiring the team behind Instapaper, which will continue operating as a separate app. The Instapaper team will both work on the core Pinterest experience and updating Instapaper.

Pinterest’s logic here is that one of the company’s core tenets is bookmarking — much like Instapaper’s primary goal with its app. The company has been on an aggressive acquisition binge in the past few months. In July, Pinterest acquihired the team behind Highlight and Shorts. It would seem that much like other apps that remain very popular in certain niches, Pinterest is going to let this one continue running (at least, until it ends up running its course).

We haven’t heard much from the Instapaper team in a while. One of the last major updates happened in May last year, and while the app has been chugging along (and will continue to do so as the team continues to work at Pinterest), a lot of the same functionality that Instapaper pioneered has found its way into other core user experiences.

Instapaper was one of the original “save it for later” readers that built up a mentality around being able to hold onto longer forms of content without simply skipping over it and missing it. It became an early popular application on the iPhone, holding high rankings in the App Store in the news category (and at times, the entire app store). But there’s been a lot of increasing competition from other companies like Pocket, making it tricky.

instapaper rankings

So, in all, it shouldn’t seem like that abrupt an end to Instapaper. Creator Marco Arment passed the torch when Betaworks acquired the app in 2013. The following year it transitioned to more of a freemium model from its original paid product. The reality is apps that introduce a core functionality or use case are eventually subsumed by the very platforms where that core functionality works best.

Naturally, the talent and technology behind such a core functionality would be valuable to a company like Pinterest. The “save” part of Pinterest’s mantra (“discover, save, do”) is meant to be taken quite literally — collecting ideas and logging them for future action on various pin boards. Having those ideas logged gives users a reason to regularly come back to the site to accomplish things they were complementing at the time, but decided against acting upon.

One of the natural implications of having a better experience around saving content on Pinterest is giving the company ways to convert users in forms that potentially don’t exist yet. The obvious one today is purchasing products, in which Pinterest has tools to do that directly in the site. But the core use cases for Pinterest are increasingly expanding, with one recent addition being native video (and the ability to advertise against that native vide).

Here’s an example: when Pinterest started rolling out native video ads, ads product manager Mike Bidgoli told me one of the big user behaviors the company observed was users quickly skimming videos rather than watching them in full. Saving those videos for a more complete viewing experience seems like an obvious user experience Pinterest would want to perfect, because it means higher engagement — and a higher likelihood of potentially converting a user to get to that “do” point in the chain of actions Pinterest hopes to encourage.

All this is important for Pinterest for two reasons: the more talent in general it attracts, the more it can tweak and improve its products; And the more specialized teams they can bring in, the better they can re-imagine what the existing functionalities might look like as user behavior whiplashes from device and behavior to new expectations.

And of course, the general line of business logic still applies here: higher return rate, higher engagement, higher chance of conversion or advertising opportunity leading to more revenue and more room to continue growing. If we’re seeing Pinterest get more acquisitive, it’s likely in an effort to figure out how to bring together existing products with new ideas in order to figure out what the next version of that experience (in this case, “save”) looks like over the next few years.