The new format promised to give YouTube a run for its money, but, after 3 months on the scene, is anyone using IGTV?
This past summer, with a flashy launch event in San Francisco, the folks at Instagram (now owned by Facebook, Inc.) announced that users would soon be able to upload videos up to one hour long through its new service, IGTV.
And, I’ve gotta say, I was pretty pumped. A direct competitor to YouTube? A vertical video format that’s optimized for the way people actually use their phones? All with the backing of an already successful and established brand?
Sign me up.
After all, up until now, everything Instagram touched turned to gold. Why wouldn’t it make sense to make the jump to long-form video?
But, despite a ton of great initial buzz, creators and users, including myself, have been slow to embrace this new opportunity. Although I initially had a ton of ideas for posting long-form video to IGTV, I’ve slowed my efforts down considerably after the first couple weeks.
And now, with Instagram's founders abruptly exiting the company late last month, could we be witnessing the beginning of the end of IGTV? Probably not, but it does have a ways to go before achieving success.
Before we try to guess the future of IGTV, let's take a look at what went wrong:
1. IGTV doesn’t differentiate itself enough from Instagram.
It’s like IGTV is being raised by a helicopter parent. Because IGTV is so heavily linked with Instagram, it suffers from a bit of an identity crisis.
For example, if you follow someone on Instagram, you’re automatically subbed to them on IGTV. This is, hands down, the most annoying features of the new format.
Let's face it, not all Instagrammers are going to thrive in the long-video format. Not everyone's going to be successful at making that leap, which is A-okay. However, I don't want to see a bunch of channels that I'm not interested in just because I happen to follow their IG account.
Without the option to unsub from IGTV without also unsubbing from the associated IG account, it means that users are faced with a no-win situation if they want to use IGTV. Either they get used to having their feeds clogged up with bad content or they can unfollow and no longer see content from that account on both IG and IGTV.
That's not a situation that people like to be in.
That's why, if IGTV is looking to expand, it needs to cut the apron strings. I’m not necessarily saying that Instagram needs to get rid of IGTV as a built-in feature, but it needs to let IGTV go off in its own direction and trust it to be successful in its own right.
2. There’s no incentive for using IGTV correctly.
Brainstorming for this article, I opened IGTV to see what’s on and was immediately reminded why I don't usually open IGTV when I go to Instagram.
One of the first videos on my feed was a “recommended” video that was only 37 seconds long, and a quick scan through the “popular” videos category tells the same story.
Videos that are under a minute belong on IG, not IGTV.
Why even bother with IGTV if it's just the same content available through IG Stories? As of now, users are just blasting the same content from their IG to IGTV, rather than actually using it to create long-form video. And, while that's to be expected to some degree, IGTV shouldn’t recommend videos that have no place being on the platform in the first place.
Again, this problem stems from IGTV failing to differentiate itself enough from Instagram. Users want a new experience that they can’t already get through Instagram. If they open the app and see the same content that’s already available through Instagram, they’re going to tune out.
3. Searching and browsing videos is frustrating.
Let’s be honest, it’s a pain in the butt to search for videos in IGTV. Typing a popular term like “fashion” into the search bar gets you only the channels that literally have “fashion” as part of their name (regardless of whether or not their content actually matches with the search term). For this reason, discovering new content is difficult, and a lot of users aren't willing to spend the time it takes to find good content.
While YouTube has playlists and tags that help users find the content they're looking for, IGTV feels like a free-for-all with no real organization.
Although the idea to model IGTV after traditional television is an interesting one, it ignores the unique problems that comes from user-generated content platforms. Considering that anyone with an Instagram can upload to IGTV, it's not like television where there is a relatively smaller number of options. There's just too much to search through without a clear organization. Hell, even TV has guides and search functions to help you find something to watch.
4. IGTV must overcome the stigma of the vertical video format.
Vertical video has long been associated with more casual viewers. People tend to associate long-form video with the horizontal format since that’s how we traditionally watch TV and movies. We usually think of vertically shot videos as amateurish, and only to be tolerated for a short period of time (think viral videos of dogs playing hide-and-seek or children falling over). As a result, we tend show less patience toward longer videos in the vertical format.
I, personally, think the vertical format is cool. It feels accessible and real. However, IGTV might have to overcome the initial stigma from some users, and content creators may have to reevaluate the way they approach the platform as a result.
5. There's No Ad-Revenue for Content Creators
Instagram relies heavily on its influencers for content, and, while a lot of famous Instagrammers tested the waters immediately after the launch of IGTV, most haven’t found it to be worth their time…yet.
IG influencers make money through brand partnerships on photos and short-form Stories. As of now, considering the relatively low view counts on IGTV videos, they're just not willing to invest in the more time-intensive format for what would probably be a smaller payoff from partnerships.
If IGTV begins to allow users to monetize their videos (similar to YouTube), that could be enough to push more influencers to jump onto the platform. However, there would still be the pesky problems of search and user experience that would still drive away most users.
Ultimately, monetization is probably the least of IGTV's problems. In the end, popularity begets popularity. If some of its more glaring issues are resolved, more users will jump on board. With that, influencers and power-users will follow, and, if more influencers bring in high-quality content, that'll drive growth even higher.
Mike's Take: What’s the Verdict?
The future of IGTV seems especially unclear in the wake of Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger's exit from the company. Facebook, which was initially wary of the idea because they feared it would compete too much with Facebook Watch, may just choose to abandon it altogether. And, while some critics are drawing early comparisons to Google+ (as another internet dead space within an otherwise popular brand), I still think it’s too early to call.
Besides, I’m not ready to give up on it.
It doesn't take a ton of extra time or effort to throw some content up, and if IGTV does take off, I'll be ahead of the game. That's just my approach to testing new things. If it works out, that's awesome. If it doesn't, I'm sure to learn something from it.
And maybe that's the lesson we'll all learn from IGTV. Even if it fails, taking the chance at success is always worth the risk.
About the Author
Mike Speer is a digital marketing executive at Michael’s Wilder. He shares his experiences with entrepreneurship, creative marketing, and balancing a hectic work schedule with his life as a devoted husband and father.
Interested in getting stories like this delivered right to you? Sign up for the mailing list and get curated content about business, marketing, and entrepreneurship sent to your inbox.