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Instagram’s move into long-form content: Will the IGTV app dethrone YouTube?

Instagram is taking over the world. According to recent Bloomberg Intelligence, if it were a stand-alone company, the platform would be worth more than US$100 billion. Given that its community is still growing, having hit the one billion mark just last week, the top management has constantly been on the hunt to offer more ad platforms to brands.

Just last week, for example, Instagram launched IGTV at an event in San Francisco. The initiative expands its offering from just hosting bite sized content, to watching long-form vertical video from Instagram creators.  Creators will even have their own channels. And if you think it sounds a lot like Google-owned platform YouTube, you aren’t alone.

According to Antoine Bouchacourt, VP Asia, Shootsta, the fight is definitely on between the two Internet giants, and the move is a welcomed one. Instagram, he said, has time and again “proven to understand [consumers] better than any other platform when it comes to video.”

“It is about making content fast and immediate in a way that connects people,” he said, adding that Instagram’s greatest asset is its culture of constant innovation. He added that Instagram has already surpassed Snapchat with its Stories function, and now by embracing long-form video “it is taking a swipe at YouTube, which is going to have to innovate to remain competitive.”

Rochelle Chhaya, managing partner – Investment at Omnicom Media Group Singapore said that given that mobile screen time continues to rise, what gives Instagram, a mobile-only platform, a distinct advantage over other platforms is that it has already trained users to use vertical video, unlike YouTube.

“Of course, with more and more players entering the content space, there is likely to be an impact on YouTube. Having said that, I still see YouTube maintaining its hold in the near future, until IGTV and other platforms are able to grow their content bases,” she said. Moreover, given that most of the content shot by marketers for traditional TV screens is already in horizontal format, it is much easier for them to extend that content onto YouTube. With the vertical format on IGTV, marketers would need to create two separate pieces of content or edit the same video for multiple formats.

“Given the growing importance of video, this just means that now marketers will not only need to optimise between screens, but also between delivery platforms,” Chhaya explained.

She added that what will be key for YouTube is how it defines audiences and continue to strengthen their viewability and fraud metrics.

“Digital video is under tremendous scrutiny lately on the true value it brings to the table. As such, it will be important for YouTube to play on the audience data that it has to help brands to build custom segments and allow them to target and retarget more effectively,” she added.

Ramakrishnan CN, partner at Entropia, said that while take up of the new function is unlikely to be a problem, the current design “will not be able to dethrone YouTube” as it lacks focus on the search function.

“Currently we can only search for IGTV channels and not the content itself. This seems cumbersome. Finding content is one of the main reason why YouTube dominates, and what IGTV is lacking it at the moment,” he said.

On the plus side, he added that the fully native vertical long form video content is designed for the way that people consume videos, and this is a clear differentiating factor from YouTube. Like Chhaya, he added that consumers are consuming content on the mobile platform and “IGTV is probably best placed to take it up and give creators an alternative to the sheer monopoly of YouTube.”

“YouTube has to evolve for sure. At the moment it has quite a lot of things going for it, however it hasn’t yet optimised the mobile experience fully, even though 80%-90% of the traffic for them comes from mobile,”  he added.

Creating a curated feel

Chhaya added that given Instagram has a more curated platform feel, the videos that “would be part of such a platform should mirror the same content quality”. But, at the end of the day, she lauds the move by Instagram stating that the data that Instagram can obtain from the service will allow for tremendous potential for responsible personalisation.

What will be key for IGTV is how it tracks and reports on viewability, as well as how quickly it can grow its base of content.

“In today’s world, where content snacking has become the norm, this new service delivers content that will be of particular interest to you. This also allows brands to be able to integrate content seamlessly,” she said.

However, Bouchacourt is of the view that while Instagram initially started out as a platform for users to curate, create and share photos, it is now better known for other features such as Instagram Stories – which is all about encouraging regular, real-time direct connections amongst users and brands. As such, brands stand to take advantage of IGTV by understanding that it’s not TV in the classic sense at all. He said:

The value of IGTV isn’t in spending lots of resource creating big-budget video, but about being real-time, authentic and human.

Meanwhile, Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO, Socialbakers added that video has been the top performing content on social media for some time now and with Instagram quickly becoming the most impactful platform for brands, it’s no surprise that the top management are exploring ways to offer marketers more engaging content types.

“Instagram has long been the platform of choice for both micro and macro influencers. With the rapid growth in importance of influencer marketing IGTV will providing a platform for even the smallest influencer to reach and engage their audience with the content they like to watch,” he said.

By offering them the chance to share original user-generated content via the IGTV app, Instagram is making itself “even more sticky”.

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