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IGTV: Vertical videos isn’t the biggest challenge for this YouTube competitor

YouTube has become the go-to online video platform of the modern age. Whether you want to know how to replace an SSD on your laptop, make a crepe or watch people struggle to climb up slippery steps with an Australian commentating, YouTube is probably where you go. It also played an instrumental part in launching a whole generation of amazing creators and some of the best content we’ve ever seen in our lives.

But it’s also hard to deny the backlash YouTube has received, especially from its own creator community, on a myriad of issues stemming from the platform’s unrivaled control on the modern-day consumer’s attention. When there’s simply nowhere else to go, you’re left at the mercy of the platform.

The good news is that Instagram wants to change that with their brand new long-form video service IGTV. However, they’re taking a rather oddball approach to it.

What is IGTV?

Yes, Instagram already allows you to upload videos to their platform both in the timeline and through Instagram Stories, but those videos have always had a strict time limit placed on them. IGTV is different because now you can upload much longer permanent videos to the platform — up to 1 hour clips, in fact.

That said, IGTV isn’t going to challenge YouTube at its own game, at least not directly. Rather than just launching yet another video sharing platform, Instagram is embracing the mobile-centric nature of its main application and bringing that to the realm of long-form content. In other words, IGTV wants you to film and upload vertical videos.

Yes, the video-filming format that most people’s aunts and uncles film with. The ones that video-snobs turn their noses up at. That is the format IGTV will be based on and their justification for that is simple:

IGTV is designed for mobile. Designed to be viewed on your phone.

And that’s hard to argue with because they’re right. We all use our phones in portrait — in fact, mine is permanently locked in portrait — so why should we be forced to hold our phones awkwardly in landscape when we want to consume content?

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Also, as much as I love watching videos on my desktop computer or on the big TV, the fact is that about 80% of the time I’m watching videos on my smartphone. So why shouldn’t 80% of the videos I see be optimised for the mobile phone?

Will this work?

That’s hard to say right now because even if we ignore the differences in video formats, one of YouTube’s biggest strengths is its capabilities as a search engine. Its basically the Google for videos and from the limited time that I’ve spent with IGTV, I just don’t see this being a big focus for the app.

Speaking of the app, Instagram actually launched a separate app for IGTV that you can download on Android and iOS. I, however, don’t understand the need for this separate app because you can already access all of IGTV’s features and its content in the main Instagram app.

Nevertheless, Instagram says that this app is designed to be like TV, not like YouTube. This means that when you launch the IGTV app or access IGTV from the Instagram app, you’re immediately thrown into this carousel of videos that have already begun playing automatically.

You can switch between several tabs labeled For You, Following, Popular and Continue Watching — all of which are self explanatory. Under each tab, there’s selection of videos from the various people you follow that you can individually tap on to watch.

This TV-like approach extends to the way you search for content too. Instead of searching for specific videos — like you can with YouTube — you’re searching for IGTV Channels, much like you would on normal television. Personally, I’m on the fence about this approach because it makes it hard for me to discover content based on a certain subject without knowing specific channels. For example, if I wanted videos about a particular smartphone, I can’t just search IGTV for videos about that smartphone. I need to go to specific tech channels and look for the content I want from there.

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What’s more, you can’t use the IGTV app to film and upload videos to the platform. You have to film your videos first, then upload them to IGTV.

Then, of course, if you add in the vertical aspect of the videos, you’re faced with a whole new set of challenges. Not only from a technical aspect, but I think this will impact the kind of content you might see on IGTV too. I don’t know about you, but vertical videos feel a lot more personal to me. Maybe it’s because you tend to see more of the person in the frame, but maybe also because I’ve come to associate a certain level of production value with horizontal videos compared to the amateurish vibe I get from vertical shots.

Still, if the lure is strong enough, I’m sure content creators will find brand-new creative ways to utilise the vertical video format. Bothie vlogs anybody?

Whatever the case, competition is always good

The last thing you want is to have one company or platform owning everything. Sure, there have been YouTube challengers like Vimeo and Dailymotion, but those platforms have pretty much been beaten into the ground now. They simply couldn’t get the following that YouTube commands.

IGTV, on the other hand, brings with it the entire might of Instagram’s 1 billion monthly active users because every creator that creates a channel on IGTV also gets to bring their Instagram followers with them. Yup, if you’re following someone on Instagram and that person creates an IGTV channel, you automatically follow them on IGTV too.

That’s great news for big creators who are already on Instagram because they don’t have to start from scratch again on a new platform. Plus, with superstar creators like Ninja, Lele Pons, MKBHD, and Phillip DeFranco — to name a few — already dropping content on IGTV, it’s really hard to ignore this brand new platform.

Perhaps the biggest issue IGTV needs to figure out right now is how to pay its creators because IGTV isn’t launching with ads yet. Of course, ad implementation is only a matter of time and once that happens, things will get truly scary for YouTube.

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Personally, I’m still on the fence about IGTV

Sure, competition is great, but I don’t like that the competition is coming from a Facebook-owned company. With all the scandals surrounding Facebook and how they’ve been handling our personal information, I just don’t like that the popularity of this platform will put more power into Facebook’s hands. Of course, I’m not saying that Google’s a whole lot better — I guess I just hate that those are my only two options outside of completely abandoning the internet.

Then, there’s the fact that I’m just not a fan of vertical videos — at least not the vertical videos I’ve seen on the platform so far. Everything just looks and feels so claustrophobic, which isn’t a great feeling when I’m consuming long-form content.

That said, the biggest problem for me is the fact that I can’t search for videos around a particular topic. If I wanted to watch a movie trailer, for example, or a guide on how to replace my SSD in my laptop, or watch people struggle to climb up slippery steps with an Australian commentating — I can’t do that on IGTV. I still have to go to YouTube.

But, I’m not calling a hard no on IGTV. I think there’s a lot of potential for this platform, from its reach to its creator base. And, even if it doesn’t become my favourite way to consume video content on the internet, at least IGTV could pressure YouTube into becoming a better version of itself.

Win-win.

In any case, you’re probably going to start seeing content very soon on the SoyaCincau IGTV channel as we explore this brand new platform. So if you haven’t followed us on Instagram yet, it’s time to turn that blue follow button white.

What do you guys think of IGTV? Have you given it a try? What kind of content do you think will work on IGTV? Let me know in the comments below!