Is IGTV a YouTube Killer? First impressions from a former YouTube employee.

If you’re a daily Instagram user like I am, there’s no doubt you’ve seen the new “IGTV” feature (feature or platform?). Not only does it take up a ton of in-app real estate (in a bright orange gradient no less), but many of your favorite influencers have started promoting their new “channels” hardcore.

I spent a few hours watching and evaluating how people are using IGTV and took some notes for those of us who aren’t Insta-famous and clearly didn’t get the pre-brief.

Before we dive in, though, I have to acknowledge my bias. As many of you know, I worked at YouTube for a number of years and even led a team specifically focused on teaching off-platform influencers to find success on YouTube. In that role, this was the exact feature I feared the most. Why? Because frankly, people who are famous on Instagram expect to be instantlyfamous elsewhere, and it doesn’t always happen that quickly on YouTube.

Now that Instagram is a viable option for publishing longer-form video, some influential personalities and filmmakers will likely forgo experimenting with or investing in YouTube altogether.

Despite these creators having the desire, and often the talent to create higher quality videos, and earn those AdSense dollars doing it, the opportunity cost ultimately outweighs the benefits for many…at least for a while.

All of this is to say when I compare IGTV to YT, bear in mind I’ve been positioning the two platforms against each other for years, always pointing to YouTube as the platform of choice for next-level video creators.

So, let’s do this before my observations are irrelevant, shall we?

IGTV — What is it?
In short, IGTV is YouTube on Instagram.

  • You’ll see longer-form videos (up to 10 mins in length) from people you’re already following.
  • To find these longer videos, tap-into a creator’s profile and find their IGTV “channel” right next to their Story Highlights. There are three additional ways to browse content from the IGTV icon at the top of your feed: For YouFollowing, and Popular.
  • Videos must be uploaded from the video library which means they’re all pre-recorded and pre-produced. We’ll be seeing lots of videos edited with music, logos, and other graphics here.
  • All Instagram users have the ability to create a channel with a tap of a button. Yep, even you.

Wait, but what about Stories?
IG Stories, which is basically Snapchat on Instagram has been around for a while now and is inarguably the market-leader in casual, disappearing videos. Stories are up to 15 seconds long and last just 24 hours unless pinned to your profile as a Highlight. Stories will continue to be raw, unedited, and more casual in nature, while those higher quality, often evergreen videos on IGTV will remain on your channel indefinitely (or until you delete them).

Who is IGTV for?
While anyone can benefit from IGTV, it’s a game-changer for influencers working directly with brands. Brands pay influencers big bucks for a single post or an IG Story. The opportunity to create higher quality content that doesn’t get lost or disappear after a day or two has advertisers and influencers drooling, for sure.

Small businesses and gurus will love IGTV because we know video expedites the know-like-trust factor with potential customers, and pre-produced video is a lot less nerve-wracking than going Live, and still easier than YouTube.

I’m a pro. Let’s talk numbers.
Cool. You’re going to love the IGTV video analytics available to you. Although nowhere near as robust as YouTube’s video analytics, you have insight into what I believe to be the most important metric: viewer retention. You can see, in-app where viewers are leaving your video which is invaluable when it comes to improving your content over time.

You may also want to check your vanity at the door — with IGTV, the public can see your total view count (unlike Stories which only the uploader has access to). IMO, this is good because accounts with inflated numbers from purchased followers will have obviously lower engagement on their videos, and everyone (including those big brands) will see it. Worth noting, when it comes to total video views, IGTV counts 3 seconds of viewing as a true “View”.

What about vertical video?
A lot of filmmakers and YouTubers think portrait mode videos are a joke. It used to be that anyone filming in this orientation would end up with black bars on the side and look like an amateuer, but these days with so many mobile-first apps, black bars are a thing of the past — even on YouTube.

The reality is, vertical is how we consume media now. I don’t know about you but I can’t be bothered to turn my phones sideways even for horizontal videos. To me, this directive from IG is a natural evolution years in the making.

Is this a YouTube killer?
Nah. That is total clickbait. I spoke about this in my IG Story on Friday — YouTube still has a unique value proposition. Three actually.

One, YouTube is still the world’s #2 search engine (right after Google, dur). YouTube continues to provide the greatest opportunity for discovery, especially for those creating valuable content users are searching for, on a regular basis.

Two, the user intent on YouTube is much different on YouTube than on any mixed media platform. Users come to or open the YouTube app specifically to watch videos. They’re primed to look for and consume video content and nothing more. On mixed social platforms like Facebook and Insta, users are coming for all sorts of reasons: news, updates from friends, stalking a frenemy, or to be distracted for 30 seconds. I may watch a video here or I may not… but I probably won’t be as primed to enjoy longterm and engage with it when I do.

It’s this second reason that also makes YouTube stand-out to brand advertisers using video to build awareness.

Finally, YouTube creators split ad revenue with HQ. They’re making real money uploading videos, without having to do any third-party deals with brands. Cha-ching.

Personally? I’m hoping YouTube uses this IG launch as its big moment to finally showcase its unparalleled creator service team. Although tough to market, since most creators don’t qualify for dedicated support until they have a six-figure following, I guarantee these deep seeded relationships between artist and HQ will continue to set YouTube apart in the marketplace.

How will *I* use IGTV?
I don’t know yet. I still like Stories a lot and they’ll continue to be my #1 type of video content. I love the disposable quality of them and how low the barrier is to create one. If you cringe at my occasional typo, imagine how I come across in video! Writing is still my preferred method for teaching…but never say never. If I do end up producing higher quality, educational videos (as planned), I’ll likely publish them to YouTube first and cross promote on my IG channel.

By the time this publishes, you may have figured a lot of this out on your own. I hope so. Give IGTV a try and let me know your thoughts.

Rachel Lightfoot is Bay Area brand consultant and career coach, specializing in Primal Branding for female business owners and executives.