Instagram took aim at TV and YouTube last week with the launch of IGTV, at a press event in San Francisco.
The platform is a standalone property from Instagram, due to the company’s belief that users do not want long-form video in their traditional Instagram feed. Instead, they believe that users will move over to IGTV, where they can watch videos that last for up to an hour.
Basically, it’s Instagram but without the posts. Just longer videos. In a vertical format. In a separate app. But it’s also a feature on vanilla Instagram.
Sound confusing and unwieldy? That’s because, well, it is.
Instagram has put a lot of their eggs in the vertical video basket, citing the way people actually use their phones as the reason. It’s yet another example of Instagram encroaching on Snapchat, the platform that popularised vertical video.
But the format raises some practical implications for video creation, which many have been quick to point out (or mock, as in the case of YouTuber ‘ViloniousTV’ below). The vertical format can be limiting, with its origins and utility instead in raw, short-form footage. If anything, the longer video length will serve to remind us why Vine imposed a time limit of six seconds on their videos.
Instagram wants to be TV for young people and it wants to challenge YouTube for video dominance. But have they jumped the gun? The success of IGTV, like any video streaming service, will be based on the quality of the content it publishes. That content comes from the so-called ‘creators’, who bring with them a legion of adoring followers.
If IGTV has any chance of success, it needs to poach these creators from YouTube, just like YouTube did to Vine. And what made the creators make that jump back then? Yes, the exposure on YouTube was larger, but I bet the money helped…
And therein lies the problem with IGTV – for now, at least. Where is the incentive for creators to invest in the platform? Instagram has said that it will explore and test ways to help creators monetise following launch but until they figure this out, they may have a ghost town on their hands.
Whilst there are no ads on IGTV at launch, this will have to change eventually. Advertising is a huge part of Instagram’s revenue model and it will need to consider a revenue-share with creators if it wants to attract them to the platform. Of course, brands will always create their own videos as part of their organic social media strategy but they’ll quickly abandon ship if there isn’t an audience.
Let’s not forget that Facebook has tried to encourage creators to produce native video content too. That has largely failed because, despite Facebook’s colossal reach, the money just isn’t there. There’s a lesson to be learnt here, which is that creators often go where the money is.