When IGTV launched a year ago, Instagram made sure to hammer home that this was going to be a hub for vertical videos and only vertical videos. That was what was going to differentiate IGTV from, say, any other long-form video platform already in existence. It launched with a handful of big-name creators hoping if they created IGTV content, their loyal followers would adopt the new app. It didn’t work.
The launch event itself was chaos — in the New York office we were served foie gras while we sat and waited for several hours for the company to get a glitchy livestream to work — so it’s hard not to feel like IGTV was cursed from the start. This week, Instagram announced it now supports landscape video. Meaning if you turn your phone sideways you’ll be able to watch full-screen videos in IGTV. “We realize this is an evolution from where IGTV started — we believe it’s the right change for viewers and creators. In many ways, opening IGTV to more than just vertical videos is similar to when we opened Instagram to more than just square photos in 2015. It enabled creativity to flourish and engagement to rise — and we believe the same will happen again with IGTV,” the company said in a blog post.
Part of the problem in IGTV’s first year was that nobody was really uploading videos to the platform. Five months after launch, I checked back in on some of the creators the platform featured at its launch. Lauren Riihimaki a.k.a. LaurDIY posted two short videos the day of the launch … and hadn’t posted since. (Only one of those videos remains up on her account.) JiffPom the dog hadn’t ever posted. It didn’t bode well.
But the larger problem wasn’t that people weren’t posting, it’s that when they were posting, it was easier to just crib content from horizontally shot YouTube videos and cross-post it to IGTV rather than shoot all new content for a platform without an audience. With today’s change, Instagram is only encouraging that further. Influencers and creators were already robbing Peter to pay Paul when it came to IGTV content. Now that stolen, or, uh, repurposed content will just look better on the app because viewers won’t have to watch videos the size of a postage stamp.
Aping other platforms is something Instagram is historically good at. Great at, even. A year after it copied Snapchat’s Stories feature, Instagram had beaten Snap at its own game and made stories ubiquitous. Users were spending more time each day just in Instagram Stories than in the entire Snapchat app. Which is to say, yes, IGTV is, in many ways, YouTube now, but also that it’s possible this will end up being a win for Instagram. YouTubers cross-posting videos to IGTV means more traffic to IGTV, something it appears to desperately need. More traffic means more potential for revenue, revenue that doesn’t care if the video its being generated from was originally intended for a different platform.