Image Credit: IGTV

Instagram is the platform that I spend most of my time on. There’s no denying that it’s fun, interactive and a great way to catch up and keep up with people. The past few months have been huge for Instagram. Not only have they hit a global community of 1 billion, but just three months ago, they launched IGTV, an app integrated within Instagram for watching long-form, vertical video created by Instagram users. There is also a stand-alone IGTV app that users can download.

The videos on IGTV are full screen and vertical, and unlike on the Instagram feeds, these videos aren’t limited to one minute. Instead, each video can be up to an hour long, depending on whether you are a verified user. Suddenly the question on everyone’s brain was “What about YouTube?”

People starting to make comparisons to YouTube was obviously inevitable. YouTube is the main social media platform for video content creators. Nevertheless, Instagram has always been a company that regularly steps on the toes of its competition. The launch of Instagram Stories in 2016, an idea inspired by Snapchat, was a major factor that pushed Instagram past 1 billion users last June. Now Instagram is going for longer videos with IGTV. The unique selling points of the new feature are two important distinctions: Videos are vertical, not horizontal and content is meant to be created and viewed on mobile devices only, even though most of the time, it is not.

So the question is; will IGTV be king when it comes to video content creation, or will it just serve as YouTube’s younger, slightly meddling, sibling?

Video consumption on mobile is growing in popularity. It absolutely makes sense for Instagram to have branched out into this area of the digital sphere. According to an analytical annual report on how people across the Middle East use social networks, Damian Radcliffe, a Chambers Professor in Journalism at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication and Amanda Lam discovered that there are 63 million Instagram users in the MENA region, the equivalent to 10 per cent of total global users.

Since the new feature launched, many Instagram users started uploading content. The whole point was that anyone could be a creator. Anyone can start their own channel and anyone can upload (almost) anything on to the app. While Instagram had certain expectations of what the video content would look like - casual, lightly edited, or even raw format content of popular Instagram stars sharing vertical videos of their lives, in reality, browsing IGTV offers videos that are simply just… random.

With a healthy mix of pranks, unorthodox beauty tutorials, on how to bleach your underarms for example and horizontal videos that were clearly created for YouTube, are among the selection of things you would find on the app.

While the rest of the content is completely on the other side of the spectrum - highly edited professional quality videos that are cropped and modified to fit the IGTV screen.

IGTV starts playing as soon as you open the app. You do not have to search to start watching content IGTV instead, recommends videos “For you.” The recommended videos are proving difficult for some local content creators.

 

 

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Mohsin Khan, a popular Abu Dhabi based tech YouTuber known as Emkwan said: “There’s a major problem with discovery and how ITGV episodes are shown in the playlists. A lot of digging needs to happen for content to be found, and if someone is following a lot of different accounts then it becomes challenging to get to the videos that you want to see. As someone who uploads regularly on both my YouTube channels, one is a tech review channel and one is a vlog channel, I was hoping that IGTV would give me another platform to create content and carry over the narrative on to. I planned to do shorter unboxing videos, shorter vlogs. So I uploaded three or four IGTV videos to experiment, but I realised that many followers couldn’t find my videos.”

Zakaria Mssiyah, a UAE based Instagram influencer known as Abu Dhabi Fargo said that he is very excited to start uploading onto the app.

 

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“I would definitely upload content on there. I have some great ideas for luxury videos that I’m planning on publishing.” He also added. “Instagram did a smart thing by introducing longer video form on the platform, as it will keep users on the app for longer.”

Emkwan emphasises that the current content on IGTV right now is not different from other platforms and it does not add value. “Content creators aren’t keen on IGTV. For me to invest my time in ITGV, I need two things: For my content to be seen, and for my content to give me something, not necessarily something monetary, but engagement or more followers. Instagram needed to consider these aspects before launching their app, in order to make it more competitive. I can’t justify taking time away from my YouTube channel to create for IGTV.”

Abu Dhabi Fargo also agrees that the engagement level for IGTV videos are too low and because it is hard for viewers to find out about new videos and updates. If Instagram can work on solving these issues, it will help IGTV to grow. He said, “As someone that uses Instagram for my personal brand, I find IGTV has opened up for me another way to create content. I can see great benefits in the future for brands and companies too that are looking for a platform that has an already established audience and a wide reach and appeal.  I also think the format of vertical video is different to what YouTube offers. It’s a more ‘realistic’ experience for viewers of IGTV.”

Vertical video are an interesting concept from a user perspective. It is a very natural way to consume content, because it is just how we hold our phones. However, to improve it, Instagram should be more selective about who should be able to upload and even those people that upload should adjust their format better and should give the user incentive to upload.  

Emkwan agrees by adding, “Instagram should have rolled it out to serious content creators first, before opening it up to everyone else.

Abu Dhabi Fargo believes that Instagram could improve by making their IGTV have a clear benefit system for content creators the way YouTube has on its platform. Monetisation will help push content creators to make more for IGTV.”

Gulf News had no luck getting a comment from Instagram for a comment on whether or not they plan on monetising content on IGTV.