Instagram was born in 2010 as a simple photo sharing app whose core tenet was that all the photos were square. Now owned by Facebook, Instagram – a portmanteau of ‘instant camera’ and ‘telegram’ – has grown into a social media giant 800 million plus followers. Now, its creators have launched a new complementary app, IGTV, intended to compete with video-sharing giant YouTube.
The IGTV service is Instagram’s latest attempt to shake the table. Before that, they introduced IG Stories and were roundly criticised for copying Snapchat. The story feature lets users upload photo and video content to their profiles for viewing up to 24 hours, a feature Snapchat made popular. The highlights feature let users pin specific stories to their profiles indefinitely. The app further expanded its video hosting capabilities by letting users broadcast live video. IGTV is simply the next logical step for Instagram’s continued relevance.
Instagram’s rollout of these features hasn’t always looked promising. Most users were nonplussed at the stories feature when first released. Many simply posted their SnapChat usernames and continued to use the app as they had before. Slowly, however, things began to change as Instagram stories had some clear benefits over SnapChat. With the addition of the highlights feature, users could now have their stories pinned to their profiles indefinitely unlike their competitor’s 24-hour expiry date.
Now, Instagram is taking aim at YouTube with its IGTV launch. YouTube content creators have been critical recently, so the market is ripe for competition. Creators say YouTube has become more advertiser-oriented, valuing ad revenue over content. The platform is overrun with high volumes of low quality content, making it hard for emerging creators to break through and difficult for established ones to continue to market their content. Many influencers have both YouTube and Instagram accounts. But those with larger Instagram platforms will benefit from IGTV as their followers will now have access to all their video content on one platform. IGTV, in general, is a good thing for all content creators; a serious competitor for YouTube might finally push them to improve their service delivery for content creators. Amazon’s alternative to YouTube, Twitch, has already been fairly successful in capturing segments of YouTube’s audience and creators, mostly gamers. Instagram has the additional benefit of already having an established platform with millions of highly active users.
IGTV does have some key differences from YouTube. The videos are all vertically formatted, which is ideal for mobile viewing. Videos start playing the moment the app is opened. The creators say people visit YouTube with a specific subject or video in mind but will visit IGTV simply to kill time. This is useful for content creators because viewers are more likely to come across their content organically. IGTV now lets users post videos of up to 15 minutes while select users can post videos of up to an hour. What’s still unclear is the app’s mechanism for monetisation. Youtubers have been vocally dissatisfied with the platform’s current model for monetisation so this element could be key for IGTV to deal YouTube some serious damage.
It’s still too early to say whether Instagram will become the new video giant, but so far, IGTV engagement looks promising. Selena Gomez, the most followed user on Instagram, posted a short horror video directed by Petra Collins. Media giant Buzzfeed immediately released a large volume of prepared videos in tandem with the platform’s launch. Socialite Kim Kardashian West was also quick to release a promotional video of her KKW pop-up beauty shop in Los Angeles. IGTV will most certainly be a success if this trend of heavy engagement amondg its most active and influential users continues.