Instagram launched long-form video last year. Is anyone watching?

Anaheim, California (CNN Business)Instagram just wanted to be a little more like YouTube. But despite two splashy launch events a year ago and the promise of a Kardashian, its long-form video feature IGTV has had trouble taking off.

Since Stories launched in 2016, Instagram has shared several updates about how many people are using the feature (most recently: 500 million people each day), and it has continued to add new features to Stories, such as photo filters, polls and music.
But when it comes to metrics about IGTV, it’s crickets.
    The feature is a hub for longer videos on Instagram, found by tapping the tiny icon of a TV at the top of the app. While anyone can use the feature, it’s primarily aimed at celebrities and people who make a living from social media. You must have 10,000 followers or more to post videos up to an hour long on IGTV, while regular users can only post videos that are up to 10 minutes.
    “It’s very early [for IGTV], and in my mind we are really just getting started with this,” Jim Squires, Instagram’s head of business, said on Friday at a session at VidCon, the annual conference for online video creators in Anaheim, California.
    The feature was announced in June 2018 and positioned as a competitor to Google’s (GOOG) YouTube. At the time, Instagram said it was tapping celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West and Selena Gomez to be among the first to upload longer-form videos to their accounts.
    “IGTV has not been a resounding success like Stories has been. That is pretty obvious,” said Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst at research firm eMarketer.
    Over a year later, the feature has struggled to gain traction. Kardashian West has posted just four IGTV videos, the most recent a full year ago, while Gomez has no IGTV videos on her account.
    Some social media influencers told CNN Business a big reason it hasn’t been popular so far is because there’s no way for them to make money from the feature. On YouTube, similar-length videos can include ads that generate revenue for creators.
    Lauren Riihimaki, a YouTube personality known as LaurDIY who also has an Instagram account with over 5 million followers, has posted just one IGTV video since its launch.
    “The issue is that most creators have so much going on, especially with video content. That’s what takes the most time, energy and budget,” she said. “When something goes on YouTube, for the most part, you’re able to kind of reimburse your cost and monetize that. Instagram hasn’t rolled out monetization for IGTV yet.”
    “It’s not a step I have time to do for free right now with my workload,” Riihimaki added.
    Hannah Meloche, who has over 1.8 million followers on both YouTube and Instagram, said she hasn’t used the feature much and prefers to post longer videos to YouTube.
    “If Instagram could add some sort of monetization, I feel like that would spark people’s interest a little bit more,” she said. “That’s probably why a lot of people tend to upload their longer videos to YouTube.”
    But Meloche said that for influencers who only use Instagram and don’t have a YouTube following, IGTV is a “great way” to share a longer video.
    “I definitely have noticed it hasn’t taken off too much,” said Alisha McDonal, known as Alisha Marie on her social media channels. “It’s one more thing to add to everything [creators do].”
    A company spokesperson told CNN Business that Instagram recognizes monetization is important, and wants to make sure it gets it right.
    The spokesperson also said it will begin testing Instagram’s branded content tag on IGTV next month, which is a way for influencers to disclose paid partnerships with brands — the primary way Instagram personalities make money.
    Instagram has made some other updates to the IGTV feature since its launch, such as allowing for horizontal IGTV videos, which are the norm on platforms like YouTube, rather than only supporting vertical video. It’s also been encouraging users to check out IGTV by previewing those videos on the Explore page and main feed. Most recently, it started running ads for IGTV on Instagram’s popular Explore page.
    When asked about giving creators ways to make money from IGTV, Squires said it’s a top priority.
    “This is something we are investing heavily in. There is definitely more to come on the monetization front so that creators can make their livelihood,” he said, adding that influencers can already earn money by working on sponsored content deals with brands.
    While IGTV content is available within Instagram, it also exists in a separate app. Since the launch of the IGTV app in 2018, it has been downloaded about 7.87 million times globally, according to Apptopia, a firm that tracks mobile apps. Apptopia estimates that IGTV has about 1.75 million monthly users. For comparison, the main Instagram app has over 1 billion monthly users.
    But some social media stars are embracing IGTV.
    Denzel Dion, a YouTuber and Instagram influencer with well over 1 million followers on both platforms, said he posts videos to IGTV that exceed the one-minute time limit for videos on the feed. He makes IGTV videos on his phone spontaneously without too much planning, in contrast to his YouTube channel, where the videos are more produced and professional.
    “I don’t really care about the monetization. I’m just posting longer videos because I like it and it’s fun,” he said. “Obviously I won’t be as motivated, like ‘Oh I have to post to IGTV’ but it’s still something I use and enjoy.”
      But overall, Ryan Detert — CEO of Influential, a platform that connects influencers and brands for sponsored content deals — said that “very few” of the social media stars his firm works with are touting their IGTV content to brands.
      “Since Stories was released, its [usage] has exponentially increased on every [brand and influencer] campaign we do,” Detert said. “IGTV has not become that yet. Maybe one day it will, but it’s definitely not a YouTube killer, at least not today.”

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