What IGTV Needs to Be a True YouTube Competitor

To be perfectly honest with you, I’m doing all kinds of things wrong on YouTube, but I am working to improve on a lot of what I do there. And despite how much people might complain about the algorithm or getting unexpectedly booted out of the YouTube Partner Program, YouTube is still far and away the reigning champion of online video and they offer a good deal of support for people who are successful on the platform.

And while there have been some snippets of success from alternatives like Vimeo or even Vine, nothing has come anywhere close to knocking YouTube off its elevated pedestal. Instagram thinks it can and that’s why they announced IGTV in June 2018. With already a gigantic user base demonstrating monumental levels of engagement, and with the significant backing of Facebook working behind the scenes, IGTV could be poised to be a real YouTube competitor.

But it’s still missing a few pieces.

Monetization Options for Creators

In some ways, you could say that creators have been spoiled with the monetization program at YouTube, even if most creators don’t make money on YouTube. And even among those who do, the AdSense revenue share is still a relative pittance unless you’re consistently raking in millions of views. Even so, it’s nice to get some pocket change as a reward for your work.

Right now, there is no direct monetization available to creators on IGTV, at least not at a public level like how the YouTube Partner Program (YPP) works. To be fair, there also are not any ads in IGTV at the moment (though there are on Instagram, of course), so that may change. What might be interesting is if Instagram partners with someone like Patreon as a monetization model, or if they integrate with vendors like Amazon on a revenue sharing basis for linked products.

Creators can still work out their own brand deals and sponsored content, like how they can on every other platform, but having something baked into the system has always been of tremendous appeal to YouTubers, especially those without millions of subscribers.

Better Search Capabilities

It should come as little surprise that one of the biggest appeals of Google-owned YouTube is the incredible search function. This is true both from the perspective of someone creating the videos (and hoping to be found) and someone who is looking for videos to watch (and hoping to find what they actually want to watch). Search on YouTube is far better than you’d find with Instagram or Facebook or Twitter or practically anywhere else.

For the time being, while there is some level of discoverability by way of hashtags for IGTV, the actual search function itself is limited to finding the “channels” (read: accounts or profiles) of the Instagram users creating video content for IGTV. Sure, it’s great if you can find the channel for your favorite vlogger or brand, but what if I’m looking for a particular video on a particular subject? YouTube still wins, both based on volume and based on the ease of finding it.

And this is true, to some extent, to Instagram as a whole too. You can do a search based on location or user or hashtag, but more complex queries for specific content aren’t really possible. If you want to truly compete with YouTube, you need to compete on search at least at a basic level.

A True Desktop Experience

Instagram has always approached the market in a very measured way, so I totally understand their decision on this. Remember when the app was only available for the iPhone? Remember when your photos had to be square? Remember when they started introducing video? Or Stories? Or the ability to finally check Instagram on your computer?

With vertical video and the way the interface is designed, it’s obvious enough that IGTV is coming from a “mobile first” attitude for a “mobile first” user demographic. This could appeal to the Snapchat generation, at least at first, but at some point, IGTV needs to expand to a proper desktop experience as well. People spend more time on their mobile devices than on their computers, but they are still on their computers.

Right now, you can upload from your desktop, including your thumbnail and description, but that’s about it.

I’m not entirely sure how vertical video can best translate — if I did, I’m sure I’d be making a lot more money as a consultant or executive or something — but it needs to happen if they want IGTV to elevate to the level of YouTube. Can you imagine if you could only watch YouTube on your computer and not on your smartphone or tablet? Can you imagine if you could only get on Facebook through your phone and not on your laptop?

Where Vimeo, Viddler, Vine and even Google Video have come up short, IGTV could be a real player in this online video space. Realistically, I don’t see it usurping YouTube altogether. Instead, I think the two platforms will be able to complement one another and offer different experiences for creators and consumers alike.