In June 2018, Instagram launched its new IGTV service. Promising a super-simple yet powerful platform for creating and sharing 1-hour videos, IGTV clearly had YouTube in its sights.
The big difference? Long-form vertical video.
Despite the fact YouTube actually implemented support for vertical video as long ago as 2017, IGTV’s inability to publish anything but that format was the focus of most headlines – good and bad.
Could vertical video work? Was Instagram’s colossal user base enough of an excuse to jump on board as a creator? Or would IGTV languish as a ‘nice effort, but not quite’ in the world of online content?
Unfortunately, it seems it might be the latter. While the Instagram Stories feature has double the daily users of Snapchat, the uptake of IGTV has paled by comparison.
So, if you’re a content creator or simply interested in different forms of video production, should you still check out IGTV?
You might have experienced IGTV’s struggles yourself
Try this. If you’re an Instagram user, open the app and have a look at the interface.
Spot that little icon at the top-right next to the messages icon? Have you ever pressed it?
It might even have a little red icon to indicate something new is waiting for you… but have you ever felt inclined to head into that area of that app?
You may also have received notifications about new IGTV videos, but why would you react to something that isn’t on your radar, or, if the rumours are to be believed, on anyone else’s?
Facebook clearly wanted IGTV to become the long-format video platform of choice for creators on Instagram, but it just doesn’t seem to have happened.
This wasn’t helped by initial issues with IGTV when it went live.
The lack of playlist and proper search or curation features means users must rely on Instagram’s algorithm to be fed with relevant content, but this is far from perfect.
Prominent YouTubers seem to have lost interest
If you follow any prominent YouTube creators, the chances are they’re not doing much on IGTV, if anything at all.
An initial flurry of activity from such people was, of course, to be expected when the platform was launched. However, and from the author of this blog’s perspective, those initial experiments usually extended as far as short previews of YouTube content – often not optimised for the vertical format.
Some YouTube creators have continued in this vein, but it’s unclear how profitable IGTV is for them in terms of engagement and gaining new viewers. Clearly, their loyalties still lie with Google’s video sharing platform when it comes to viral video production.
Is vertical video suitable for long-form content?
There’s not really anything wrong with vertical video – particularly when you consider it’s how the vast majority of people consume such content on their smartphones these days.
However, producing long-form vertical content is a questionable practice. By their nature, vertical videos benefit from short, sharp bursts which can be watched quickly while someone is waiting in line at a coffee shop or when there are five minutes to spare during a lunch break.
The question is: how many people would happily watch an hour of video in vertical format in the palm of their hand? Would you?
Monetising content is practically impossible
Instagram hasn’t yet implemented any form of revenue making ability for IGTV creators.
You can not monetise your videos on Instagram. And that begs the question – what’s the point of using this platform as a serious content creator if you can’t make money from it? You are much better off with YouTube.
Sure, you could get creative with the videos themselves, but IGTV should offer its users some form of revenue-making opportunity if its to tempt them away from the bright lights of YouTube and it’s established reward structure for prominent creators.
Vertical format makes it tricky to re-use old content
One of the best things about YouTube is that anyone can re-use existing content.
That customer interview you recorded three years ago? Upload it, and anyone can view the content. And, if you’re a professional video content creator, the ability to easily pick up old footage and repurpose it on YouTube is a blessing.
Unfortunately, IGTV’s decisions to only offer vertical video makes this far harder. Converting wide-format video to vertical isn’t particularly straightforward, and, in most cases, nearly impossible without it looking dreadful.
Content marketing has long been about creating new content and repurposing the stuff you’ve already used. And if you discover a platform that makes the latter a real pain to undertake, why would you waste time on it?
At the mercy of the algorithm and no way to search
One of IGTV’s biggest weaknesses doesn’t relate to creators, but it has a direct impact on their viewers: the inability to search.
Try it. If you head into the IGTV section of the Instagram app now, there’s no way to search for content.
You can’t create playlists, either, or pick from any categories other than ‘for you’, ‘following’, ‘popular’ and ‘history’.
This means one thing: you’re at the mercy of IGTV’s algorithm which isn’t very good at recommending relevant content.
Algorithms are fine – great, in some instances – but the inability for the user to delve into IGTV’s content vault and find what they want to watch is an odd decision on behalf of Instagram and one which, ultimately, could lead to its demise.
IGTV still exists today and is still used by a good number of creators.
It just isn’t as exciting, vibrant or engaging as Facebook and Instagram clearly hoped it would be.
The issues above are the most prominent, but a quick search on Google reveals others that are proving to be a real sticking point for IGTV. If it’s to compete with YouTube, clearly the developers need to listen to the groans about the service and build something that resembles the world’s largest, tried-and-tested video sharing platform.
After all – why reinvent the wheel?