Instagram, one of the largest social media platforms with over 1 billion monthly active users, has now launched Instagram TV or IGTV – as you may have noticed by the little orange IGTV button on the top right corner of your updated Instagram home. IGTV is a standalone app – so, in a way, it is to Instagram what Facebook Messenger is to Facebook, but for videos instead of messages. Thankfully, you can also view videos on IGTV through the IGTV button on Instagram home and on users’ Instagram profiles, so you won’t have to feel excluded if you haven’t downloaded the IGTV app yet – unlike Facebook Messenger. What I found myself wondering when I first discovered the IGTV button on Instagram is, since we already have access to video stories on Instagram itself and other video sharing platforms such as YouTube, how much can the introduction of IGTV change the online video world as we know it?
While at first glance IGTV videos looked a lot like Instagram stories (only longer), it turned out to be much more than that. Any Instagram user can create a channel and share videos lasting up to 10 minutes (much more satisfying than having to crop your videos to a mere 30 seconds as is on Instagram) – and for users with larger follower bases, that limit is an hour. While stories can only be 15 seconds per clip and last only 24 hours on your profile, IGTV videos are more like creating YouTube videos, only vertical and filling in your entire screen. Moreover, IGTV, unlike YouTube, allows its users to browse videos and see comments whilst watching videos at the same time – a feature YouTube users have so far been deprived of.
The idea of vertical videos is personally the most exciting aspect of IGTV to me, as this gives way to developing a whole new range of filmmaking techniques that have been largely undiscovered thus far. Film-making, traditionally done in a 16:9 aspect ratio, has always been so to mimic how the human eye views the world – horizontally. However, in the 21st century, our smartphones have gotten us quite accustomed to a more vertical view of the world, and so the new vertical experience reinforces the feeling that this is still the virtual world – a feeling that is very new, and perhaps weird, to us. Even having to rotate to view YouTube videos on full-screen can sometimes feel like too much of a hassle – that’s how much we have gotten used to viewing videos on our phones vertically. So vertical videos on IGTV not only seem convenient (albeit takes some getting used to at first), but create the scope for more experimenting for content-creators and film-makers. In fact, we had already seen a lot of vertical music videos from popular artists in 2017, and now that IGTV has created a platform build specifically for vertical viewing, there is a much broader prospect for those videos now on IGTV. The new vertical viewing experienced introduced in this platform can therefore be a huge game-changer.
What makes IGTV even easier to use is that Instagram is already a mass favorite social media platform. Popular instagrammers won’t have to worry about starting out on a new platform on IGTV but rather building up on an already existing platform. Until now, anyone who wanted to expand using both the video and photography media had to maintain YouTube and Instagram separately – having to build a follower base in both of these platforms. With IGTV now opening Instagram up to a larger range of video content, this changes the entire dynamic – users now have the opportunity to focus on only one platform, Instagram, for both videography and photography rather than having to spread their resources across several platforms. Similarly, users won’t have to switch back and forth on popular YouTube/Instagram personalities but focus on one platform only.
So the real question it all boils down to is : what does this mean for YouTube?
The launch of IGTV almost unquestionably challenges the most popular video website we have, but how much does it really challenge? On one hand, with IGTV being a vertical platform, the type of content that can be shared on IGTV has to be very differently created than what can be shared on YouTube. In this sense, content-creators who want to retain their quality might want to treat these two websites very differently. But what can impact YouTube about IGTV isn’t how the content-creators see it, but how their users see it – and frankly, IGTV has made its platform much more accessible and handy than YouTube is at the moment.
And even if IGTV does gain traction from its users, will it really affect YouTube all that much? IGTV works largely in the same way as YouTube – you have to make your videos first and you can only use the website to share your content, so it has a real scope at competing with YouTube. But to what extent it can really do this can only be determined by what content IGTV is best suited for. YouTube is more of an all-size-fits-all kind of platform – everything made for a horizontal screen (which is mostly everything) is up there, and everything that wasn’t made for a horizontal screen can be uploaded too. In this case, IGTV’s vertical take on things end up giving it the shorter end of the stick – it limits the range of content that can be uploaded there, and so limits how much it can actually challenge YouTube.
In the social media world, Instagram has made a big name already, a name that is right up there with YouTube. Starting out as a platform meant exclusively for photos, Instagram has achieved major success with the introduction of Instagram stories as well, and now with the launch of IGTV, we have no doubt that this will be big as well. What we can only wait to see is, how much of the YouTube territory can IGTV actually conquer? One thing is for sure: it is a huge relief that the new Instagram update is nothing like the Snapchat update that ruined everything, but rather brings hope, excitement, and perhaps even a new era of video culture.