Last month, Instagram revealed plans to tap the popularity of video on mobile with the launch of IGTV, which supports one-hour videos in a vertical format. This compares with the one minute video normally allowed in the Instagram app.
This, Instagram said, is part of a strategy of “re-envisioning mobile video”.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of parent Facebook, said: “People are watching less TV and more video, but most video is not yet optimised for mobile. IGTV will help solve that problem.”
“It’s designed specifically for mobile and makes watching long-form, vertical video from creators easy. There’s a standalone IGTV app, but you can also watch within the Instagram app. That means the entire Instagram community has been able to use it from the start.”
For Facebook, the move represents part of a wider push into video. Earlier in the year it launched Watch, a dedicated section for videos, and for which it is also working on original content.
However, so far the response has not been good for Watch. As a Motley Fool report notes: “Not many viewers are clicking on the Watch tab, apparently because they’re not used to going to Facebook for video, especially when better content can be found a few clicks away on YouTube or Netflix.”
So is IGTV going to be any different?
Ethan Chernofsky, director of corporate marketing at research firm SimilarWeb, is optimistic. He explained to Mobile World Live that users have come a long way from wanting to watch only six-second clips on Vine. People are now more willing to consume long videos, and not just on Netflix and YouTube, but on other apps as well.
What’s more, Instagram is different from Facebook because it is “a unique channel for reaching audiences and many brands are going to see the ‘first mover’ opportunity that comes with diving in”.
This optimism was echoed in the Motley Fool report, which said: “Instagram seems more promising for long-form video based on the age of its audience and how that audience uses the app”.
When it comes to the potential of monetisation, Chernofsky said: “Brands now have the challenge of coming up with a holistic strategy that tackles Facebook, Messenger and Instagram, and it will take a tremendous amount of testing and new ideas to find the perfect mix.”
He added that it will not be a case of one platform cannibalising on the other’s market, but rather “the pie is big enough and it’s only going to get bigger”.
“It seems a little crazy at first but when you look at apps consumption, many products are living together – we are willing to go to LinkedIn, Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram… every one of these can exist simultaneously,” he explained.
The executive said marketers should be excited at the ways they now have to reach their audience with a variety of different content and believes their “level of creativity will skyrocket”.
And it’s not just Chernofsky who is full of positivity. A report in The Verge quoted creator and tech blogger Marques Brownlee as saying: “While there’s no better place for a video creator in 2018 than YouTube, IGTV has the most potential to become a second home.”
“Brownlee says that because people are increasingly turning to influencers for their news, entertainment, and consumer advice — especially among the younger crowds — Instagram’s push to highlight creators directly will be key to competing in the video space,” the report added.
What will set IGTV apart, then, is if it is able to leverage these influencers.
IGTV’s obvious rival is YouTube, made clear through reports that the latter has been asking its creators not to share content on any other platform ever since Instagram launched its standalone app.
On the one hand, IGTV will be helped by the fact that YouTube creators have recently been unhappy with its revenue models.
A report in NDTV said that “due to its strict monetisation algorithms, several creators have claimed that they cannot just bank on their earnings via YouTube”. Creators have also complained that YouTube’s constant algorithm changes lead to lower view counts.
Instagram already has a base of 1 billion users (YouTube is nearing 2 billion) which it can leverage, because IGTV content is available on the core app, and it could become the alternative platform YouTube creators are looking for.
On the downside, IGTV currently has no monetisation platform. The company said this will come at the end of the year, but it is unclear what form it will take (ads, subscriptions, paying creators directly, for instance).
What’s more, YouTube unveiled new features last month including letting creators add subscriptions to their channels as well as the ability to sell merchandise, which may placate its unhappy content makers.
Another challenge many have pointed out is that Instagram has opted for vertical videos, which may only work for videos that are casually made and casually consumed. In other words, it may not work for watching a serious one hour long documentary, for instance, but fine for shorter, more “snackable” content – which may not be what Instagram is aiming for.
Having said that, if IGTV can learn from YouTube and Facebook Watch, it could be what Instagram needs to be the new home for content creators and influencers and help on its journey to the next billion users.
The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.