Grouper | 2005
The company technically started before Youtube, but by the time its service came out in December 2005, Youtube was already a rocket.
KEY MISTAKE Its efforts to comply with copyright law hindered growth.
OUTCOME Sony acquired it in August 2006 and turned it into the streaming service Crackle.
Google Video | 2005
Like Grouper, started before Youtube but never got much traction.
KEY MISTAKE u¯ergenerated videos weren’t as accessible to viewers as they were on Youtube.
OUTCOME Google bought Youtube for a then astonishing $1.65 billion in October 2006. Hulu | 2008
When two TV networks first teamed up to launch a Youtube rival, wags called it Clownco. But the great viewing experience proved that users would watch longer videos online.
KEY MISTAKE Its narrow mission of being a home for old TV— plus corporate infighting—stunted its growth for years.
OUTCOME Hulu is a credible, if moneylosing, Netflix alternative, now majority owned by Disney. Maker and Fullscreen 2009, 2011 These two startups built businesses on top of Youtube by managing thousands of popular creators.
KEY MISTAKE Dissatisfaction over how much money they could make on Youtube led both to try to go direct to fans. They didn’t follow.
OUTCOME Fullscreen is lost within AT&T, and Maker is now the Disney Digital Network. Vessel | 2014
Former Hulu CEO Ja¯on i¨ar ¨aunched a streaming service that aspired to get consumers to pay to get content from their favorite creators, before they posted elsewhere.
KEY MISTAKE Turns out that people will happily wait in order to watch stuff for free, or find alternative content.
OUTCOME In 2016, Verizon acquired Vessel, and then ¯huttered it.
Facebook Watch 2017 As part of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s stated goal to be a videofirst company, Watch became Facebook’s video hub for its 2 billion users.
KEY MISTAKE The company hasn’t made a splashy bet on content à la Netflix with House of Cards, which would draw users to check it out.
OUTCOME Watch continues, but its trajectory isn’t clear.
the past four years, she ran the ads team, developed the monetization strategy for Stories, and is credited with launching Instagram’s support for non-square images.
“A lot of the time, I’m a really diverse perspective in the room,” Yuki says, picking at a plate of glass noodles at the Slanted Door, a famed Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco’s Ferry Building. “I connect with the business differently than a lot of the men [do].” She’s wearing white skinny jeans and strappy heels that show off a French pedicure, a Marc Jacobs bag slung over her chair. “I shop, maybe, more than some men. That could be a stereotype, but it’s true in my case.”
Yuki studies Sandberg during the Facebook COO’S weekly Q&A sessions, calling it “leadership in action,” and says that as a result she’s developed more confidence, particularly in addressing gender imbalance issues in tech. (She once changed a company off-site venue from a paintball park to a pumpkin patch.) Yuki’s point of view makes her incredibly valuable at Instagram, and her enthusiasm for the celebrities and fashion brands that have helped drive its growth is genuine. She casually references the fashion and nailart vloggers she follows, and she can walk you through the latest workout routine that Taylor Hill, a Victoria’s Secret model, posted to her IGTV channel.
Like Krieger, Yuki readily engages on the topic of IGTV’S challenges, saying that her primary focus is helping users discover IGTV videos they’ll like. “Quite frankly, there’s such a better job that we could be doing of showcasing content in the right way,” she admits. Then there’s the trick of making sure the app notifies users about that video at appropriate moments. “Right now, the only time we’re doing that is the second you open up the app,” she says. “That might be actually one of the hardest times for you to have a moment to go watch a [longer] video.” One idea is to send out IGTV alerts later in the evening, when “you’re unplugging and trying to sit back for a little bit longer with something.”
Launching IGTV as its own separate app (in addition to within Instagram itself) was the original answer to the watch-or-scroll confusion that IGTV presents. Yuki had believed that users would “just tap it and be like, ‘Okay, I’m in. I’m in IGTV mode.’ ” But according to the analytics company App Annie, downloads for the dedicated video app were middling upon its debut and have since trailed off significantly.
Even before Adam Mosseri was promoted to run Instagram in October, Yuki’s team had begun implementing tweaks to IGTV. The banner that Krieger’s wife had thought was too small? It’s now bigger and includes a thumbnail clip of the video it’s promoting. As Instagram amasses more data on what people actually watch, higher-quality videos are commanding a more prominent place in the “For You” lineup. Mosseri, in a statement to Fast Company, pledges
EVERYONE’S TRYING TO FIGURE IT OUT,” SAYS YUKI. “TO SOME EXTENT WE DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THE BEST STRATEGY IS IN TERMS OF YOUR CONTENT. THAT’S WHY WE’RE ENCOURAGING EVERYTHING, BECAUSE WHO’S TO SAY?”
to continue this momentum and says he’s “committed to investing more time and effort” into fine-tuning IGTV. Yuki has placed her faith in what Jeff Bezos often refers to as the “flywheel” effect, meaning that IGTV will require a lot of effort to gather momentum but will eventually propel itself. She says that if she can foster the connection between creators and their audiences, then the videos will get better, users will make IGTV a habit, and everything will work out. “Our whole job,” she says, is, “How do we create the petri dish where that really takes off?”
IGTV’S COMEBACK EFFORT STARTS WITH CREATORS, which is why Yuki is courting them at events like the one at Rosaliné. On hand that day were Jayden Bartels, a 13-year-old dancer, singer, and gymnast who goes by Missjaydenb, and Paula Galindo, aka Pautips, a Colombian beauty guru. “On Feed, you can just put 60 seconds of video,” Galindo says after the event, pushing a long strand of highlighted hair out of her face. On IGTV, “you can show detail, how to blend the products, and tell the brands that you’re using [their products].”
Other creators, though, are struggling to get traction. Makeup tutorials, for example, traditionally rely upon graphic overlays that use the horizontal aspect ratio to detail the products being applied. “There’s a way that a video speaking to an audience is supposed to look,” says 22-yearold beauty influencer Eleanor Barnes, whose Instagram handle is Snitchery, “and now that’s breaking.” She’s posted two IGTV videos, both related to her tattoos. One garnered more than 500,000 views, while the other received less than 35,000. “Nobody has a blueprint.”
As a result, many creators who have embraced IGTV use it merely to post vertical trailers for their Youtube channels—certainly not what Instagram has in mind. “Why would I shift my time and effort from Youtube, where some of our top talent makes six figures a month on [Google ads] alone?” says Adam Wescott, a partner at Select Management Group, which represents such social stars as Gigi Gorgeous, Tyler Oakley, Jay Versace, and Tré Melvin. Wescott says that none of these clients have used IGTV in a significant way to engage their followers even though they frequently use Instagram itself. Even lower-budget video formats—direct-to-camera setups that require little to no editing—aren’t migrating to IGTV because there’s no money in it yet. Instagram had originally planned to start rolling out monetization before the end of 2018, but it’s been delayed until the product is further refined.
Still, Wescott acknowledges that the platform can’t be ignored. “If [Instagram does] one day turn on the faucet for advertising, why not be a step ahead of it if you have the resources and the bandwidth?”
This impulse has inspired brands and digital media companies to experiment. Warby Parker sees IGTV as a platform to “tell a longer, more coherent story than one that is a patchwork of 15second clips,” says CO-CEO Neil Blumenthal. The company has created the IGTV series #Wearingwarby, which showcases talent like Marley Dias, the #1000Blackgirlbooks activist; food blogger Molly Yeh; and Joffrey Ballet dancer Parker Kit Hill—all talking about their lives and their glasses. Blumenthal says that the company sees the greatest engagement on Instagram’s regular feed, followed by Stories and then IGTV, but thus far he’s satisfied. “From a business strategy perspective, we’ve found that being an early mover on a social platform always pays off.” The activism-oriented digital media brand Attn: debuted a series on IGTV in September with a major get: Joe Biden. The former vice president hosts each episode of a weekly talk show called Here’s the Deal, and it airs exclusively on IGTV for 24 hours before being uploaded to other social outlets. Attn: cofounder Matthew Segal says he’s operating in good faith that Instagram will provide some kind of revenue in the near future—with heavy emphasis on near. “We’re putting on a show that we’re paying for ourselves because we believe in it,” he says, “but ultimately we want [Instagram] to fund shows. If you want good quality content, it costs money.” The platform has a long way to go to establish itself as a destination, but there are things it could be doing to speed things along. Certain types of content, such as fashion lookbooks, which would benefit from IGTV’S verticality, could generate easy wins. Hollywood agents are hoping IGTV develops into a portal for content that would otherwise be sold to Adult Swim or FX, making it a powerful proposition should the ad market support it. (In October, Snapchat added 12 original short-form scripted series and docuseries to its lineup of shows.) Instagram’s own efforts also hint at how IGTV might differentiate itself. In a September research meeting, the assembled analysts discussed how “emerging” digital stars see IGTV as a place to show off a different side of their creativity, such as an actress who’s aspiring to be a musician. Instagram can spotlight and drive viewers to the people who are trying to invent the formats that might define IGTV. “Everyone does makeup tutorials,” one creator told them. “I want to be more original.” Newer, less-proven influencers also have less of an issue with the vertical format, presumably because they haven’t spent the past 5 to 10 years shooting horizontal video. Also, because they’re so new and eager for exposure, they care less about monetization. “Everyone’s trying to figure it out,” Yuki says. “That’s why we’re encouraging everything, because who’s to say?” Free-for-all experimentation has never been part of Instagram’s DNA. The app’s aspirational tone and sense of careful curation has always separated it from its peers. It’s what makes Instagram, well, Instagrammy, and IGTV—AT least so far—feel like a code name.