IGTV vs. YouTube – who will win the fight?


Instagram just launched IGTV, simultaneous with their announcement of reaching 1B users!


The first thought I had: “What’s Youtube’s reaction?” It’s clear (and explicitly noted in various news outlets) that this product is in direct competition with Youtube. Let’s do a lil deep dive into this.

High-Level Goals

Facebook’s big goal is “connecting the world.” They are increasingly growing efforts towards videos. When compared, ads on video cost more, meaning there is more value placed in video content. Video is more and more seen as a platform for connection. In parallel, Instagram connects friends to friends via rich media, with the first investment into video in 2013. It’s a communication channel that allows one to share life events with friends through posted content, ephemeral stories and direct messaging surrounding this content.

What then is IGTV’s goal? In line with company goals, it must connect. It connects users towards their broader interests through longer form video.

Target Users + Pain Points

  • In IG, 15-second videos and short, one-off stories are the extent to which videos are shared. But content creators have more to showcase beyond these short reels. In particular, IGTV capitalizes on the growth of these “web celebrities” – newfound internet sensations making their fame on media platforms alone. Instagram specifically targeted Vine star Lele Pons for example to create content exclusively for the platform.
  • On the demand side, IGTV captures a younger audience – millenials invested in going into rabbitholes on their phones and those already following these rising internet sensations. Web celebrities targeting young audiences + millenials seeking cool content = matchmade in social media heaven


  • Foundational Base
  • Now that Instagram has 1 billion users, that’s 1B users who can immediately discover IGTV!

    IGTV comes both as a separate app and as a button on IG. Fantastic. Users on both sides are already there. Content creators already have a following. Audience members already have content to start watching. This makes for a spectacular base to route current users to IGTV’s powerful platform.

  • Mobile-First
  • Mobile’s reach only continues to grow. In Mary Meeker’s internet trends, 3.3 out of 5.9 hours per day are spent on mobile, and is most responsible for overall growth in digital media consumption. IGTV smartly leverages this growth by being mobile-first via its vertical-only content. In a way, it also allows a more personalized viewing experience. It encourages content that captures the face of the person using the front camera. It’s as if you’re interacting with the person right in your screen.

  • Prioritize Video Creators
  • Video as a medium is growing much more than any other media for engaging with an outside audience. With longer-form video, creators (and in particular video creators) aren’t limited to one-offs. You can post a how-to or a dance video or a make-up tutorial session and not have to worry about linking your audience to another platform just to show them the full length of your content.

  • The strategy behind building a separate app also voices this prioritization. Placing IGTV gives video content a different context, instead of cluttering it with photo, stories and other content already on Instagram and vice versa. The experience of long-form versus quicker types of media (photos, stories, etc.) differ enough significantly that it makes sense to split the experiences. As Systrom notes, “Video deserves a better home on mobile.”
  • Encourages New Creators
  • We live in a crucial time of the era of the Internet where we see the rise of “web celebrities.” Think celebrity gossip guru Perez Hilton, techblogger Michael Arrington & pioneer woman Ree Drummond. This feeds on “the influencer factor” – a phenomenon, which initially started via YouTube. These influencers, however, used other platforms such as IG to market themselves. A content creator notes:

    A new platform that does both the marketing and the video hosting will make a compelling case to switch.Strategically, it makes sense for these celebrities/influencers to leverage IGTV — it saves them precious time. On IGTV, anyone can publish content and let the content speak for itself. No need to worry about polished editing or fancy visual effects. This interestingly moves away from the preppy, perky and curated IG feed and more towards a personalized and true form of creation.

  • Endless Engagement
  • I only realized the idea behind naming it “TV” later in the game: It’s literally a TV! While places like Netflix, Youtube, Vimeo allow you to explore a feed before consuming content, IG throws it back old school and gives the never-ending experience of a TV — there is something playing from the moment you open the app to the moment you close it. You even comment and like or interact with other audience members while watching.

    Where Youtube is a place to go to for users to find something they already have in mind, IGTV allows users to get sucked into rabbitholes of endless engagement. It’s addicting and that’s a big draw for creators who want these random spurts of engagement for their creations.

What’s missing?

  • Money money money
  • Kevin Systrom from IG notes that the focus is on experience first before monetization. Makes sense – in its early stages, engagement and activation are top priorities. However, monetization is clearly the next immediate priority to fully carve out this feature. It’s not quite clear how IGTV plans to do that. Ad sponsorship is a viable, and more conducive for businesses to add longer lasting video ads. However, there needs to be a good balance so it doesn’t much disrupt user’s viewing experiences. There are talks of mimicking YouTube’s revenue share model, which currently allows some users to earn $100,000/month. However IGTV is far from replicating this mass of income early on. Until monetization is prioritized, Youtube wins in content creator prioritization.

  • No content creation for content creators?
  • There is currently no way to create content on IGTV itself. A reason behind this may be due to the preservation of content quality; but this drops the number of videos any one user might add on their channel. Youtube, with the IGTV scare, recently announced they were launching tools prioritizing content creators (smart move), which could be a compelling case to stick with Youtube.

  • Pitfalls of Vertical
  • Vertical videos prioritize mobile and these “web celebrity” creators, however, those with already huge followings on Youtube & those who upload or share content in other media formats will have to shoot and edit each episode twice. If IGTV is trying to steal away users from Youtube or other media platforms, it’ll take a while before they consider vertical the way to go.

    While the design caters to a mobile experience, it is rather difficult to discover videos in this horizontal scrolling formats. In the interim, a sophisticated recommendation algorithm can solve for this until a better discovery experience can be added.

  • Moderation
  • IG, I’m sure has as well with shorter form content on their platform. But long-form content is a different beast to tackle, which Youtube has faced and is only getting better at. I’m curious how IGTV will stick up to this challenge and how many moderators are needed to mitigate this problem.

  • Channels?
  • Lastly, a small note on channels: What’s the point of channels if you can only add one. If a channel = creator, then why differentiate?


At the end of it…

  • As mentioned, monetization efforts are the top priority. Total spending on online video ads is expected to rise from $18B to $27B in 2021, and IGTV can capitalize on this growth. While other factors come into play for choosing platforms (orientation, discovery, content creation tools), in the end, content creators need to make money. If I were a content creator, I would push test & content out on both platforms. Whichever platform allows me to earn more money easier and faster, will win my heart and that’s where I’ll stick. Let’s see how this race goes.