If change is the only thing constant in the world, it’s most pronounced in the ways we communicate and entertain ourselves. We’ve seen more communication and media formats come up in recent years than the preceding century. Twitter, Vine and Snapchat are only a few examples of new communication formats that we’ve seen roll out over the past decade or so. On the other hand, while YouTube, Instagram, Medium and others didn’t invent new formats, they gave content creators novel, powerful ways to build and reach their audiences through the web.
This week, we saw the release of another one of these new media formats: the Instagram TV, or IGTV. In case you’re unaware, it’s Instagram’s foray to occupy the sweet spot between the video content created by your friends (the stories) and the content produced by Hollywood (Netflix, HBO). This mid-level content created by amateur creators has traditionally been the forte of YouTube. Instagram’s plan involves banking on the following big, relevant change in the world: while younger audiences are spending more time with amateur content creators and less time with professionals, they do it almost exclusively on mobile.
IGTV’s big differentiator from YouTube is that these more-than-just-a-mintue videos are in a mobile-first, vertical format— which is also how we naturally happen to hold our phones. It’s the first vertical TV that the younger audiences are ready to eat right out of Facebook/Instagram-empire’s hands, and it opens up new avenues for smaller businesses seeking to capture the growth opportunities around it.
The biggest problem with content marketing, or more broadly speaking, for inbound marketing is inevitable saturation in the acquisition channels. In short, it means that new platforms stop working as well over time since they get crowded with low-quality marketing content. This ultimately leads to the platform cracking down on such material. For instance, Facebook modified its feed algorithm earlier this year to deprioritize posts by business pages. In other cases, when the platform itself fails to take action, the audience shifts its attention away leading to the platform’s decline.
What this means for marketers is that the creation of new platforms by big companies is one of those prime opportunities to get in early and exploit the channel before it runs its course and becomes ineffective. There will be winners that successfully utilize IGTV, and there will be others that sit on the sidelines wondering why no one uses their product. Startups have been riding new media channel waves to their benefit, and it’s time for you to do the same.
Beyond just a new marketing channel, IGTV could also potentially lead to the birth of new startups. YouTube provided a way to add videos to Myspace, which wasn’t possible at the time. Bitly made it possible to have shorter URLs on Twitter. Imgur gave Reddit contributors a place to host their images. What tools do amateur creators need today to shoot, edit and produce high-quality vertical videos? If you can solve their problems, you may be the one selling pickaxes in a gold rush.
If you’re a content creator, business owner or an aspiring YouTuber, take your phone out and start shooting fantastic content. Hire a video editor who can make your videos a lot more powerful and sticky, and make sure your message lands on your target audience. Better yet, learn to do it all by yourself. And most importantly, hit that Upload button — the Casey Neistat of vertical video isn’t going to be Casey Neistat.
You don’t have to wait to see if IGTV will live or die — in today’s world, you can’t afford to wait until the platform is saturated to take action. Given Instagram’s massive userbase (1 Billion monthly actives now!) and beastly execution on Stories over the past 2 years, I’d give it my vote of confidence.
Anant Jain is a co-founder of Commonlounge, an educational platform with wiki-based short courses. He also writes weekly book reviews and essays on tech, design, and fitness on his blog and talks to people on Twitter.