The technology and social media industry are going through a reckoning. It seems like almost every day there is a new scandal attached to one of the Big Three tech companies; Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Scandals include election meddling, censorship debates, fake news, Senate testimonies, drug trafficking, and mental health issues to name a few. It’s safe to say that it’s been a turbulent few years.
Somehow though, Instagram has managed to skate by unscathed. Even though Facebook owns Instagram, the platform has managed to avoid being lumped together with their parent company’s poor reputation. Instagram has quickly become the place to be and be seen. They’ve carefully deflected scandals all the while drawing in more users from the flailing Snapchat.
For a while Instagram was the golden child of social media, they could do no wrong. It was only a matter of time until they had their first misstep, and it appears it’s finally happened.
Instagram’s upgrades are not always received the same. Whether they’re praised ( like the launch of video posts), stole from another platform ( like copying Snapchat for Instagram Stories), or met with widespread hatred (like removing chronological order), Instagram users have remained loyal.
So when Instagram announced the launch of IGTV, a platform where users could post hour-long videos (regular Instagram videos are capped at a minute) it seemed like they were finally coming for the one social media platform that it’s top influencers were reluctant to abandon- YouTube.
For Influencers, Instagram and YouTube went hand-in-hand. Instagram was essentially a marketing platform to promote themselves and their content. It was a vital component, but YouTube was where the real content lived. With IGTV, Instagram was making a bold play for YouTube, enticing Influencers with the promise of doing it all from one platform.
While it’s still early, it doesn’t appear like this idea will work.
Personally, I haven’t been on IGTV since it’s launch when I briefly explored what it had to offer, which wasn’t much. Since then I’ve only returned when my finger accidentally pressed the icon instead of the one for my messages. Since it’s launch two months ago, it appears that my case isn’t alone.
IGTV’s featured creators from their launch have their feed videos getting roughly 6.8x as many views as their IGTV posts. These featured creators have more of a push than others, getting the benefit of early access, promotion, and guidance from the platform. If even they aren’t thriving, what chance does the average person stand?
Download numbers of the standalone IGTV app have dropped dramatically too. The app peaked at #25 for US iPhone app downloads, with around 2.5 million downloads across iOS and Android. Since then though, the app has dropped down #1497 and seen a 94% decrease in weekly installs.
IGTV Faults and Challenges
Its slow start doesn’t mean that IGTV will be a total flop. What it does mean is that Instagram has to do more to win over users. It has to confront the number of faults the app has and the challenges it faces.
IGTV is entering the market 13 years after YouTube. The social media market is considerably more saturated than it was even when Instagram launched 8 years ago. Even the original star players like Facebook and Twitter are struggling to stay afloat and attract users. If Instagram isn’t careful, IGTV could become the next Google Plus.
This platform also has the challenge of getting users to not just accept, but to adopt a new video format. People may be more comfortable shooting vertical videos thanks to SnapChat and Instagram Stories, but for content creators used to YouTube’s horizontal layout, enticing them to shoot videos in the vertical format is an uphill battle.
Instagram hasn’t provided much incentive for creators to take the time to create content specifically for the platform either. Between unique video layout and low viewership, creators are left wondering why they should bother. It doesn’t help that IGTV hasn’t committed to a monetization or revenue sharing strategy.
So far the platform has failed to have a breakout star or video. Viral content still can be viewed on IGTV; it just doesn’t get its start there. Instead the platform is filled with clunky videos, haphazardly made with only a few creators putting a heartfelt try into creating content specifically for the platform. Most videos feel like extended cuts of Instagram Stories or reposted viral clips.
Instagram has remained positive stating, “The question is can we pull that off and the early signs are really good. We’ve been pretty blown away by the reception and the usage upfront.” However, creators are less optimistic. The vertical format means creators have to specifically create content for it, and with low view numbers so far that hasn’t been appealing.
YouTube star Casey Neistat told TechCrunch, “YouTube offers the best sit-back consumption, and Stories offers active consumption. Where does IGTV fit in? I’m not sure. Why create all of this unique content if it gets lower views, it’s not monetizable, and the viewers aren’t there?” While Instagram Stories began rivaling Snapchat almost immediately, IGTV still poses little threat to YouTube.
Only two months in, it’s still too early to declare IGTV a failure. But it’s still fair to say that so far IGTV is Instagram’s first serious misstep. There are a few places the platform needs to focus on, like how to attract new users and how to allow creators to monetize. Most creators agree that adopting horizontal videos, at least for the foreseeable future, would be a huge help. It would allow creators to easily import content they create for other platforms rather than debate whether putting their production resources for this budding platform is worth it.
Facebook is notorious relentless though and has the resources to explore tweaks. IGTV is their chance to reach into the video market that YouTube (owned by Google) has long dominated. IGTV hasn’t been the star they were probably hoping for, but it does present an ideal playground to find the right formula. Instagram has positioned itself as the It social media platform, and with Facebook’s deep pockets behind it, IGTV could be the one to take the video-sharing world by storm.