Fast Company

INSTAGRAM GETS ITS WIRES CROSSED

The beloved photo-sharing app stumbled earlier this year in launching IGTV, its YouTube-like product. Now, Instagram’s founders are gone, and its parent company (Facebook) is getting antsy: Somebody’s got to get that play button to work.

The 30-year-old product manager in charge of IGTV, Instagram’s long-form video platform, is standing in front of a small crowd of twentysomething digital editors and content creators on a warm September morning at Rosaliné, a bistro in West Hollywood. Tucked among trendy boutiques and overpriced salons, the space features ivory tiles, mid-century modern furniture, and cascading green flora, giving it a distinctly “Instagrammy” feel—to borrow a term used by Instagram employees to describe the composed, art-directed aesthetic that defines the image-sharing app.

Most hands shoot up, and Yuki, who has the enthusiastic energy of a camp counselor, looks relieved. “Okay! That’s good! Lots of hands. Keep your hand up if you’ve actually used IGTV.”

Sensing the crowd’s trepidation, she soothingly urges, “It’s okay. Be honest.”

Several arms descend, but Yuki keeps smiling as she assures the crowd that today “will hopefully inspire you to try it.”

IGTV is Instagram’s five-month-old bid to become more than just an app that you scroll through during life’s in-between moments to see photo and video snippets of your friends. It aspires to be a “lean back” experience that users tune in to for long stretches of time. Like YouTube, the platform that it’s most trying to ape, IGTV allows creators to upload video—up to 60 minutes for certain influencers—onto a “channel.” But unlike YouTube, IGTV requires all of its content to be shot and viewed in a vertical format, to complement the way people actually hold their phones. This behavioral change is a risk that Instagram is very aware it’s taking: “In the whole history of humankind, we haven’t shot video this way or looked at video this way,” Yuki tells the crowd. (This is true but for Snapchat’s efforts to create this habit, which has been successful in limited doses but not for TV-length programming.)

As a next step in Instagram’s evolution, IGTV makes strategic sense. Instagram’s 1 billion users already watch 60% more video on the platform than they did a year ago, and it has amassed a creative class of influencers that it would like to retain as exclusively as it can. Although Instagram doesn’t directly make money from influencers,

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