During their keynote they mention that there was a saying at instagram which was to “Do one thing and one thing really well,” which I think is hilarious because if anyone has identity issues, its Instagram.
Now it might sound like I'm just poking fun at Instagram, but this is a very important thing to consider. At 9th Ave our biggest ongoing project is a Youtube channel called HiSessions. Its not the biggest channel on earth but we have a fair amount of viewership. About 200k follows and 6 to 7 million viewing minutes per month. What we were able to do is create a specific product, build an identity over time and now were the number one source of music video content in Hawaii. That can only happen if you have a stable platform.
If you don't know what I mean by platform, Youtube is a platform for searchable and discoverable video content. Snapchat is a platform for short form spontaneous content, iTunes is a platform for music.
Youtube has been perfecting its platform for a very long time. Its the most sophisticated search engine for discovering video content in the world. It has it all, analytics, tech support, search ability, ease of use, monetization, and community.
Now lets take a look at Instagram. It started out as a scrolling app for square photos in chronological order, then you could upload photos of different sizes, then they added 15 second videos, then they increase the limit to 1 minute, then they took on Snapchat with stories, now they want to be a TV platform? At the rate that Instagram keeps changing, who knows what IGTV will be this time next year. So what is that one thing that they are trying to do? Instagram is a social media platform, but beyond that, its pretty convoluted.
As creators, its very difficult to build an identity in such a volatile creative space like Instagram unless you stick to what you’re good at, and that brings me to my next point.
Instagram claims that IGTV was created for high quality content, which makes sense because at the rate that we click through Instagram stories, its hard to imagine lingering on any video for more than 15 seconds unless it had some sort of deeper value to me. Quality video content for the most part is created by experienced content creators. The challenge though is the vertical format of the videos.
I can tell you, as a filmmaker, that it you cant just edit existing videos into a vertical video. Well I mean I guess you can, but cropping out 3/4 of your shot isn’t exactly ideal. The standard landscape video format isn’t going anywhere. I can guarantee that. It will always be the most natural and instinctual way to view something. The shape of the human eye is horizontal and they’re placed on the left and right sides of our heads, not the top and bottom. Most people can turn their head about 80º left and right, but only 45º up and down. Normal conversations are with someone in front of you, not on top of you, mostly. Even the example creator that Instagram brought on to stage was featuring a scrunched up video where he and a couple friends were dancing awkwardly squeezed in next to each other, half the time cutting off 1 or 2 of them.
So creators who are already invested in video platforms with traditional format aren’t going to just abandon them and start mounting their cameras vertically in order to create content for a brand new platform.
Also only camera that I've ever owned that was intended to shoot vertical video is my iPhone, and the Mavic pro I guess, but I don't think that was some sort of Instagram-DJI collaboration conspiracy. So from a technical standpoint, its that much more effort to orient a camera to shoot vertical video.
Another thing that made laugh during the keynote is that they had five vertical screens as the background, but they only used the center screen to show off content. That should have been a hint to them that maybe this vertical video thing is an uphill battle.
Vertical video to me is like a fun art project where your teacher say, “Ok, now were all going to do a painting but we can only use the colors blue and orange.” Its a fun idea, but in the end, I think its just a restriction.
So I find it highly unlikely that IGTV will somehow sway creators from other platforms to start creating similar content for IGTV instead which is why I don't think IGTV can compete with YouTube, and maybe its not meant to. I think the content that were going to start seeing from IGTV is going to be a whole genre on its own.
Now there are lot of creators who are already invested in the Instagram ecosystem and IGTV is probably the perfect platform for them to expand their horizons with vertical video, so in that respect, I think its great, but for everyone out there saying that IGTV is an here to take on YouTube, I'm not sure I'm buying it yet.
The only creators who have an incentive to build a channel on IGTV are those who already have a large following, and the even alluded to that in the keynote by saying “content from you favorite creators.”
Now if I was new to video content creation and I was thinking about what platform I wanted to invest in, IGTV would be a huge risk unless I already had a large following. Right now the only way to get discovered is to get on the good side of their God forsaken algorithm and somehow beat out the already established channels for screen space on a device the size of your palm. Not to mention the only thing that you can search for in IGTV are users. Another thing that would scare me is the fact that Instagram you never know where they’re going, they’re volatile and its getting more and more complex with every feature. Right now its longer format vertical videos, but who know what it will be a year from now.
Now I can say one thing about Instagram and IGTV that give it a leg up. Its a highly diversified social media platform which is great for marketing. This means that sharing is incredibly easy and you can use all of the pieces to create a very identifiable brand, from easily consumable photos, to behind the scene stories, 1 minute video trailers , and full episodes on IGTV. There are so many ways to brand yourself, but its all highly dependent on consistently creating content in order to stay relevant and that's the problem with social media.
That's what it really comes down to, is that on social media, your just creating content for an audience that just needs something to stimulate their mind temporarily, and thats why the overwhelming majority of your views come in the first couple days. But on Youtube, you can create a video that circulates for years because its purposeful content that viewers are actively seeking out. We have a music video thats been up for 5 years and is still being viewed over 300k times a month. The video has inherent value and viewers can discover it any time because it isn’t dependent on being at the top of your feed.
So unless Instagram radically changes the way users discover content, I don't see it competing with Youtube, because they are two entirely different things. Im sure some day, there will be something that comes along and wipes out youtube, but as it is, I cant imagine IGTV is it.