IGTV is Struggling to Find its Footing
When IGTV launched, our initial advice was cautiously optimistic. Try it, but don’t bet the farm on it. We were willing to put a little more stock in a new feature when it was coming from Instagram, a platform that’s seen nothing but success. But early on, IGTV is struggling to engage its audience, and to convince creators to dedicate time to it.
The appeal of the platform is obvious. In a smartphone-dominated world, a vertical video platform that allows users to watch full-screen content without turning their phone is a huge potential win. The ability to serve long-term content of up to 60 minutes doesn’t hurt either. Add in the built-in audience that’s already on Instagram, and you have a gold-mine.
IGTV is Struggling to Get Users on Board
The most telling metric of all to prove that IGTV is struggling is the silence in regards to user numbers. From Techcrunch: “Two months after [Instagram Stories] launched in 2016, Instagram was happy to trumpet how its Snapchat clone had hit 100 million users. Yet two months after IGTV’s launch, the Facebook subsidiary has been silent on its traction.”
Active users rule the social media world, so if the numbers looked good, IGTV would likely be quick to call them out. The fact that they’re not sharing data is telling in itself.
Techcrunch went ahead and got some data of their own. “We took a look at the IGTV view counts of some of the feature’s launch partner creators,” writes John Constine. “Across six of those creators, their recent feed videos are getting roughly 6.8X as many views as their IGTV posts.”
Creators are Hesitant to Go All-In
Digiday had a great write-up a few weeks back that focused on the publisher side of things. Even for publishers that are spending time and resources with IGTV, it’s still not a perfect marriage.
For Discovery and three other publishers interviewed for this article, two months after its launch IGTV remains something of an enigma: a platform to experiment with but not to devote much in the way of dedicated resources to, at least not until there’s a clear way to reap some revenue in return. That means taking videos already distributed on other platforms and repurposing them for IGTV.
This seems to be the strategy for a lot of brands, and it’s in line with the advice we gave early on. But this reuse and recycle strategy means that brands aren’t necessarily delivering anything unique on IGTV. They’re just re-packaging content you’ve probably already seen. So the lack of originality could be one reason why IGTV is struggling.
Video production for social is already a nightmare for creators. Adding in one more channel – one that hasn’t proven it can provide a big audience – is not something people are going to be eager to do.
How Will Instagram Pivot?
It doesn’t seem likely that Instagram will scrap IGTV, especially not this early on. The potential is too great, and the launch was too big to do that. Instead, it’s likely that some tweaks and updates could be in the works.
First, to try to ease the pain for creators, we’re seeing the first concession on the vertical-only front.
Small sign that IGTV is struggling to find its way: you can now upload videos in landscape format and it will just crop them, when it first launched it would only allow you to upload videos in the proper "vertical" format
— Rich DeMuro (@richdemuro) September 14, 2018
This is an effort to preserve the experience for the end-user, not necessarily to optimize the way content is served for creators. There’s no shortage of tutorials available to “hack” the vertical video format and serve 1920X1080 content via IGTV.
By adding a horizontal crop option, IGTV is trying to make more people upload videos the “right” way, and keep end users from being forced to rotate their phone.
the bottom-line is that Instagram is not dumb. They have created a massive platform that people actually still enjoy using. IGTV is struggling right now, but I’d still bet that they find a way to turn this around and make it a positive.