Digital Publishing Platforms
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Can Instagram’s YouTube rival IGTV become an alternative for publishers?

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When Instagram was born in 2010, it was simply a mobile photo sharing app. But fast forward three years and in 2013, it began moving into video. Now eight years after making the initial push into the digital space, at a conference in San Fransico, Instagram announced IGTV, a standalone app which will feature videos up till an hour long in a vertical orientation.

As publishers look for new alternatives to YouTube’s ever-changing advertising guidelines, IGTV has the potential to become an alternative platform for publishing success.

IGTV comes at a time when digital media consumption has become increasingly more video focused, with 45% of people watching more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week and more than 500 million hours of videos are being watched on YouTube each day.

Being on YouTube and Facebook—especially with its recent monetisation push—has proven beneficial for publishers, as 64% of consumers make a purchase after watching branded social videos on the platforms, according to a study by Tubularinsights. With publishers including Bloomsbury publishing already making use of IGTV on their Instagram page, it’s evident Instagram wants to encourage publishers to use IGTV- even if it can’t pay them just yet.

Although CEO Kevin Systrom did tell reporters that monetisation options will be available to IGTV somewhere down the line, Instagram may have missed an opportunity to become a serious threat to YouTube and become a new platform for publishers on day one. YouTube’s ‘Ad-apocalypse’, a result of their decision to change the advertising guidelines, has led to some publishers and advertisers leaving the platform

However, IGTV was launched by Instagram without any of the monetisation tools necessary for converting YouTube publishers to thrive. Even though Instagram doesn’t have a way to pay publishers yet, there’s obvious interest from some of the world’s biggest, as shown by Bloomsbury publishing already making use of the new feature on their Instagram account. That shouldn’t come as a surprise since it would be a mistake for any publisher to ignore an app that now has one billion monthly active users and counting.

“We’re not starting there, because we’re trying to just give a good consumer experience,” Ashley Yuki, Instagram’s product manager, said about the decision to leave ads out of IGTV at first. Native advertising campaigns are a major source of revenue for influencers. So, until pre-rolls or swipeable ads arrive on IGTV, publishers with large followings will probably have to rely on other options.

Still, Yuki added that since the ad-based revenue model is an industry standard, it would make sense for Instagram to adopt it down the road. Not only because it would benefit the company itself, naturally, but also the community as a whole. “It’s a reasonable place to end up. We’ll see what makes sense,” said Yuki.

Benefits for publishers?

A major benefit of IGTV for publishers is that it will have a billion users from day one, as any Instagram user will be able to watch and upload videos onto the platform. The decision to introduce a standalone app was based on how Instagrammers use the platform today, only a couple minutes at a time. That’s why Instagram decided to let people choose how they want to interact with IGTV, instead of forcing them to use a separate app.

Vogue already uses the platform’s large reach to highlight new talent, covering a mix of fashion, beauty, photography, illustration, and art. Each creator’s story is told over a week in six daily posts, which are a mix of images and video. For instance, the story of Richie Shazam, a model, and artist who lives in New York and Berlin, highlights the importance of inclusion, diversity, and self-confidence.

And that’s the thing about IGTV: It may not have a way to pay publishers for content right now, but because of how successful Instagram already is, the potential is enough to get them excited.