YouTube has had a near monopoly on the long-form video space — until recently. Instagram’s IGTV is here and it looks like it could be a formidable competitor. IGTV is the popular social media platform’s very own vertical video app, which is designed to allow brands, influencers, and creators to post longer segments; allowing for videos up to one hour in length, compared to the previous length of only one minute.
IGTV will almost certainly develop as a bona fide YouTube competitor, at a time when YouTube may be in its most vulnerable state. Here are the most likely reasons why:
IGTV could be a brand safety oasis
YouTube is especially sensitive to IGTV at the moment due to brand safety concerns. For the past year, YouTube’s biggest challenge has been assuring advertisers that their buys will be safe. At one point, 250 brands stopped advertising on the platform altogether. And, while almost all brands have returned, and YouTube has invested heavily in being a better partner, half of advertisers say YouTube has done a poor job with brand safety and managing inventory quality.
For IGTV, this is a gift. Though it has been careful not to say so explicitly, Instagram will likely be positioning IGTV as a more curated and brand-safe environment than YouTube. Brands want an alternative in light of safety concerns, so they’re looking at options from Snapchat and other premium publishers. We see this in our own spend data, with YouTube ad growth almost completely flat; increasing by just 0.2% from January to May.
So, what can brands do in the interim, whose main concern is brand safety? The instinct is to be cautious. But that may not be the right answer. Instead brands should be clear and firm with expectations. Brands first to market will be able to push Instagram to be brand safe – to demand it – and IGTV has the opportunity to challenge Google Preferred by providing brands with a transparent, brand-safe solution to YouTube’s shortcomings. However, the platform has to prove it by example first.
YouTube has made significant strides in showing advertisers that they are taking brand safety concerns seriously (e.g. the implementation of whitelist and blacklist technologies, partnering with DoubleVerify). IGTV has to be brand-safe out of the gate — or at the very least, safer than its competitor — to draw those advertisers away from YouTube.
Advertisers will like IGTV for performance
Beyond brand safety, IGTV could beat YouTube on performance. Over the past two years, the demand for performance by digital media has exploded. Last year, brand frustrations culminated when P&G and Unilever, two of the world’s biggest advertisers, dramatically cut ad spend due to concerns around transparency and ROI. Ad budgets are being scrutinized more than ever and a growing number of operations are being taken in-house.
This ties back to IGTV and YouTube in a few ways. First, according to ANA data, influencer marketing has surged. Seventy-five percent of brands are spending on influencers and nearly half will increase spending in the next year. Why? Sixty percent say they’re happy with the performance they’ve seen, with Instagram being the second-most popular channel for influencer programs, just behind Facebook.
Instagram has established itself more strongly as a performance channel than YouTube and it offers an unmatched ability to drive purchases. That’s an advertiser’s dream, of course. A recent study, reported by RetailDive, and conducted by Dana Rebecca Designs, revealed that 72% of users have made a purchase decision as a direct result of something they saw on Instagram. YouTube, by contrast, has helped with purchase decisions already planned. If Instagram can deliver similar performance through IGTV, advertisers will come calling.
Retail brands, specifically those that are significantly reliant on online shopping, should realign their budgets to make IGTV a priority, as IGTV will be a great resource for driving the right type of customers toward a purchase.
Instagram is growing, while YouTube is not
Unfortunately for YouTube, brand safety isn’t the only major challenge it has grappled with recently. In addition to ad growth, viewership numbers have begun to slow down. A few months ago, major channels and influencers on YouTube saw their monthly views stall. An analysis by eMarketer echoed this pattern, noting that YouTube’s audience growth was 13% in 2016 but only 9% in 2017. According to the report, “YouTube viewership is nearing saturation in many markets.” Those numbers are likely to continue to erode.
IGTV, by contrast, is only just getting started. Its growth prospects are bright. Instagram’s user base is growing by 5% each quarter. The company recently announced 1 billion monthly active users. YouTube has more at 1.8 billion, but Instagram hasn’t shown any signs of plateauing. Also, consider that consumer tastes have shifted towards vertical video as mobile viewing has exploded. IGTV is a vertical video-first platform, while YouTube only added vertical video compatibility in January. The viewership trends are in Instagram’s favor, whereas YouTube is playing catch up.
YouTube could wonder about its ability to maintain audience numbers if top stars and influencers desert it. At its core, Instagram is a social network. YouTube, by comparison, is not. Most come to YouTube for personalities like Smosh and Jenna Marbles. But if the personalities go away, so do the viewers.
In recent months, some influencers haveeither left the platform or chosen to diversify their content across challenger services such as Twitch. As YouTube tightens brand safety and copyright controls in an effort to calm advertisers, creators are concerned that the cleanup is leading to “viewer suppression” and demonetization. IGTV has already partnered with popular influencers such as King Bach and LeLe Pons for its launch, and any blowback among YouTube’s community of stars will only help it attract more creators.
IGTV’s opportunity to become a brand-safe, performance-driven, vertical video alternative to YouTube isn’t just hype. That being said, brands should remain vigilant during this time, and not act on impulse once IGTV decides to monetize. Some may be tempted to dive right in, due to the influencer-heavy list of content creators on the platform, but IGTV will have to prove it has learned from the woes of its competitor, before it can truly outshine YouTube.
Todd Krizelman is chief executive officer of MediaRadar