A new product launch is the most nerve-wracking event in the life of a working professional. Whether you belong to production, marketing or sales, the pressure to deliver on a new product in a cluttered market outweighs most challenges one sees in a calendar year.
While the 16 odd minute IGTV launch showcase looked near perfect, there must’ve been a lot of people within the Instagram team who perhaps had their hearts in their mouth at the global reveal.
First up, the decision to launch a mobile-first video product in the aftermath of Vine (and an impending aftermath of Periscope) is no doubt the boldest step we have seen in consumer video tech. Barring Facebook, I can only think of Amazon who could’ve green-lit a new product at this scale to take on a player like YouTube.
As reactions about the product pour in, IGTV got me thinking about how it will further change an already dynamic consumer video landscape. Is it a (unthinkable) first nail in the coffin of YouTube or will it take consumer time away from OTT players? How will content companies tailor their offering for IGTV? And lastly, how many slides are ideal for a brand for an IGTV Strategy deck?
Here are my topline thoughts and an attempt to answer a few questions on what IGTV means for the mobile video landscape.
First, let’s understand why IGTV is critical for Facebook. FB videos have notoriously poor completion rates. As a result of those poor completion rates, advertising rates are much cheaper on FB compared to YT.
For Facebook to be relevant in the video advertising space, they needed a shot in the arm. IGTV is that shot. Yes, there is also FB watch, but FB Watch comes with heavy content costs, with their 2018 estimate being anywhere upwards of $1 Bn.
Compare that to content costs for IGTV where most of the content is going to come from creator communities and you know why IGTV fits beautifully from an overall Facebook portfolio perspective. Add to that, last-year’s success of Instagram Stories and the bouquet looks very strong. Personally, as someone who has a book to advertise, Manjunath and I often experiment across these platforms and Stories has proved to be rather advertiser-friendly thus far.
The other interesting trend that’s emerging around video consumption is that people are not entirely averse to long-form content anymore. There was a school of thought not too long ago that strongly propagated short form content as the best way to hook consumers onto your platform.
Part of it was exaggerated by Facebook counting anything above 3 seconds as a ‘view’ under their reporting metrics. The rise of Vine too coincided with this trend. Here’s some data that came up on my Linkedin feed yesterday around growth in consumption of different video formats. The source is Ooyala’s internal data.
You can access that press release and more of that data on this link. The full report clearly states that conventional wisdom around how long form content adoption is low has proven to be false in recent quarters and consistently across all regions.
At the launch, the two creators Kevin Systrom invited to the stage were Bryce Xavier and LeLePons. The launch was, of course, targeted to and attended by a host of Instagram influencers from around the world. While Bryce is an upcoming video creator, LeLePons with 25.3 million+ followers has a fan base bigger than most Hollywood and music celebs on Instagram.
The signal from Kevin was clear. That they want the first adopters of IGTV to be the ‘cool kids’ of the video world. Every aspirational brand that they’ll want to target for advertising, wants to talk to these cool kids. Even established YouTube creators like Marques Brownlee have given the product a thumbs up. So far, so good.
Here’s the part that most people, especially those within Instagram would want you to ignore though. If you look at the quality of content that a Bryce and a LeLePons have on their Instagram pages, you will realize that Systrom’s spiel of ‘mobile-first’ content also means one more thing: that IGTV will make it so easy for you to create content that they don’t really care what you shoot and post on the platform.
Instagram creators have their own method to the madness of creating content and by no means does everyone need to be a Spielberg to be a video influencer, but the more content I see on Instagram, the more I know we are regressing in terms of our choices as humanity. A Paul Nicklen e.g. needs to be heard and followed far more than a LeLe Pons.
My sense is IGTV will do little to shut the noise down. Instead, it will further proliferate trashy, ephemeral content, that few of us are going to ever going to back to. Essentially, it will generate hours and days and nights of more junk.
Music, Comedy, Beauty, Entertainment and Fashion content will thrive here — and this is where IGTV will dent some of YouTube’s consumption. I expect YouTube to hold strongly to older audiences but in a 2–3 year term, YouTube might just become what TV is to millennials today — a potentially dispensable part of your life.
The reason I say that is because most of the premium high quality content is going to sit behind paywalls with the likes of Netflix or with content streaming apps like Disney or AT&T. With the lines between content owners, distribution companies and telcos, blurring thin and fast, I am not sure where what kind of content will sit on YouTube that’s not going to be available anywhere else.
The part I am loathe to comment on is how redundant will YouTube really become outside of those core categories catering to the 16–24 year olds.
Prima-facie, the 16X9 format is what I love about video in general and there is a certain kink of incompleteness in my head whenever I see a vertical video. As a user, I can’t imagine watching a long stand-up routine or long-format interviews or movie trailers on IGTV. Though, I am not sure how many have that distinction in mind when it comes to mobile video.
Will YouTube hence have a vertical section too on their app? I think its quite possible in the foreseeable future. In the same breath, does that also mean that YouTube needs to quickly create a supply chain of quality content creators? Yes. And that’s a resounding yes.
If you followed the news over the weekend, YouTube is reacting fast to this new landscape, having announced three new ways for its subscribers to monetize content. Of course, they knew IGTV was in the works and what better way to take them on than to give signs to its own content creators by saying: ‘Hey, don’t forget us. We’re here to help you make money.’
This brings me to the next inevitable question. How do you make a platform that going to mostly put up trashy content successful? The answer: make the product super intuitive and easy to use.
I spent a few hours on the IGTV app over the last couple of days and my first reaction on the experience both from within Instagram and on the standalone app is that it’s addictive AF.
Video after video, I knew I was watching trashy content that wouldn’t make me wiser or smarter one bit, but I kept sifting through. One of the features I particularly loved was the Continue Watching tab.
I never thought I would utter these words in this lifetime, but the experience of IGTV to go back to a video you were watching is better than Netflix.
This is a huge win, for the good engineers and product team at Instagram. Not to mention, the neat integration of the IGTV experience within Instagram means their marketing costs for launch will only be around PR related spends with acquisition being driven through the legacy app itself.
Reed Hastings once famously said Netflix’s biggest competitor is sleep. I can’t think why the Product Leads of IGTV would think any different.
Product-wise, I can see two improvements that I think IGTV will roll out quickly in the short-term.
On the content front, while the posturing for the launch event was around indie creators, I can imagine the Partnerships team at Instagram reaching out to the likes of Netflix and WB to create exclusive content for IGTV. This will be their #1 priority to increase time-spent on the platform.
I can’t imagine the co-founders losing sleep over the number of MAUs for IGTV yet. What they will want to strictly monitor is the time-spent by those who are on the platform. That and video completion rates ought to be the measures of success over the next few months.
On the business end of the spectrum, my guess is we won’t see any ads on the platform until 2019. Besides, they’ll be extremely selective about the brands they will want to bring on the platform and accordingly charge a premium to brands who will first advertise on the platform.
At a philosophical level, I feel mankind as a whole will have more of a challenge staving off from the amount of video content that’s coming our way. Apple’s signed on Oprah, YouTube’s signed on Will Smith, and Netflix has signed on the Obamas and these are just the top three names that came to my mind in the last three seconds.
Where is it going to end?
As if the amount of time spent we spent on our mobiles wasn’t enough (see graph below), we are getting into an even faster lane of addiction with the likes of IGTV and the biggies to come.
A question I often ask myself is whether I am the consumer who is truly hunting for content or am I the hunted?
I guess we are all in to find the answer to that one.
P.S.: Would love to know your point of view, leave a comment or a thought. I already your have cookie by now.
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