Ever since the launch of Instagram's long-form video platform IGTV almost a year ago - and the subsequent slow take-up of the option - Instagram has maintained that it has options, it has other ways it could tap into to boost IGTV viewership. And with a billion users on its platform - and 2.38 billion on parent company Facebook's network - it most definitely does have the scale to raise awareness of IGTV content. But recent additions would suggest that it may well be running out of ideas, and ways to get more people across to its still relatively new video showcase.
Earlier this week, Instagram quietly refreshed the layout of IGTV, putting more focus on specific, algorithm-defined content recommendations, and less on search. And now, Instagram has announced that IGTV publishers will be able to upload horizontal format videos to IGTV, straying from its initial focus on more immersive, vertical viewing.
As explained by Instagram:
"We’ve heard from creators who want to upload landscape videos for IGTV. Similarly, we’ve heard from viewers who come across landscape videos in IGTV but want to watch them in a more natural way. That’s why we’re announcing support for landscape videos in addition to vertical."
That, as noted, is a departure from the initial IGTV hype spiel:
"First, it’s built for how you actually use your phone, so videos are full screen and vertical."
IGTV was essentially built to tap into the rising consumption of vertical video, largely popularized by Snapchat. And while catering to audience demand makes sense, it does feel like a compromise.
As noted by The Verge's Ashley Carman:
"Vertical video was IGTV's thing, and this is basically saying that they realize everyone wants to just port their YouTube videos over to Insta and not make exclusive Insta content."
That could see more content uploaded to IGTV, as YouTube creators won't have to reformat their posts, but it won't necessarily help IGTV differentiate.
But does it need to? More content on IGTV will likely lead to more viewers, so Instagram could well win out with this update. But still, it feels a little desperate. Or not desperate, but it's like Instagram is conceding, it's latching onto options to try and buoy the ship.
Is that a good sign? It may not mean anything in the larger scheme - maybe more viewers will simply be happier having more content, even in different formats. But still...
Time will tell, of course, and Facebook is unlikely to care about such commentary if the numbers improve. But it is a little humorous to consider the criticisms brands saw for posting frames like this on their initial IGTV efforts.
Now, they won't need to, with Instagram supporting both playback formats.
"Ultimately, our vision is to make IGTV a destination for great content no matter how it’s shot so creators can express themselves how they want."
Will it help boost IGTV beyond its current state? We'll have to wait and see.