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I (Don’t) Want My IGTV

Despite massive popularity, unrivaled cultural relevance and a billion daily active users, Instagram can’t seem to figure out long-form video. Specifically, its “IGTV” platform, which originally launched as a standalone app in June (remember that?) is largely being ignored by users, at least if multiple media reports (New York Magazine, Fast Company) are to be believed. 

Small sample-size? Sure. But the numbers aren’t encouraging when so few show have shown any interest in IGTV.

We don’t have much else to go on. Despite scouring the internet, I couldn’t find a credible reporting of IGTV’s monthly active users (MAUs). Presumably, that would indicate that the number is underwhelming, and as such, it hasn’t been released. I found a random tweet that pegged it around 65 million, but that number is unsubstantiated and seems unlikely. 

Quick, informal polls on my Twitter and Instagram feeds suggested the same conclusion. 

In my own Instagram story and Twitter feed last week, I asked followers, most of whom work in the digital marketing space, if they actually use IGTV. Of 40 responses to my Instagram story poll, only one person acknowledged actually watching the IGTV platform. 

At 2.5% percent, that’s about as effective as a PPC ad. That’s not what we industry types call a great conversion rate.

On Twitter, most replies were “Nope.” Others suggested that they’d only landed on IGTV accidentally.

Instagram launched IGTV to much fanfare midway through 2018, with analysts proclaiming it to be a potential YouTube competitor. That didn’t pan out. Almost a year later, the platform feels like, at best, an afterthought, and at worst, a miscalculation. When the initial standalone app failed to take off, IGTV was more deeply integrated into into the main Instagram experience.

However, IGTV doesn’t seem to be resonating with rank-and-file Instagram users. 

Early on, Instagram was preaching patience. â€œIt’s a new format. It’s different. We have to wait for people to adopt it and that takes time,” former Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom told TechCrunch in August of 2018. “Think of it this way: we just invested in a startup called IGTV, but it’s small, and it’s like Instagram was (in the) ‘early days.’”

A month later, Systrom, along with Instagram Co-founder Mike Krieger, left Facebook, Instagram’s parent company.

So, is IGTV the new Google+? It’s likely too early to tell, but it’s looking that way.

Instagram’s main feed and Stories products have become symbiotic with the influencer community, and IGTV seems tailor-made for brands and influencers to offer longer-form content; videos can be up to an hour long. However, the people who should have the most interest in the new platform, creators themselves, are mostly just repurposing (read: cropping vertically) their YouTube content

Without a clear monetization path, they’re unlikely to continue to put any real effort into the platform. Top talent on YouTube can make six figures or more a month.

IGTV isn’t the first time that Facebook has swung and missed on long-form content. Facebook Watch, which was also positioned as a YouTube competitor, initially was paying content providers, with an estimated budget of $90 million. But as that money started drying up, outside of truly unique content like Tom Brady’s “Tom vs. Time,” “Ball in the Family” or WWE’s “Mixed Match Challenge”, there wasn’t much to see on Watch.

IGTV is not paying content creators, and it still lacks an advertising or revenue-sharing model. (UPDATE: On April 2, AdAge reported that Instagram has started to reach out to advertisers about buying spots on IGTV.)

Far more problematic beyond a revenue model is the main issue for influencers: If nobody’s watching, who’s being influenced?  Is there really a long-form content appetite to be fed on Instagram via the smartphone?

Depending on which gurus you believe, millennials either want “snackable” short-form content, or they actually want long-form content. Go ahead: Google “longform video making a comeback.” You’ll find articles from 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018 in the first page of results.

Gary Vaynerchuk has embraced the platform, but many creators have already given up on IGTV.

But here’s the thing: Long-form content never went anywhere. With apologies to L.L. Cool J, don’t call it a comeback. Long form content has been here for years. It’s called YouTube. And why is YouTube so successful?

One word: search. YouTube is the second-biggest search engine in the world, trailing only its parent company, Google.

IGTV, in an effort to differentiate itself from YouTube, launched without proper search functionality. In fact, when you activate IGTV, it opens with static fuzz, like what you would see when you turned on a TV with a cable box back in 1983 and flipped through channels, not knowing what you’re going to get next.

“Because we don’t have full text search and you can’t just search any random thing, it’s about the creators” Systrom explained at the time of the launch. “I think that at its base level that it’s personality-driven and creator driven means that you’re going to get really unique content that you won’t find anywhere else and that’s the goal.”

Search has since been added to IGTV (and it quickly auto-suggests feeds that create IGTV content), but when I opened IGTV over the weekend, I was served up content from ESPN, WWE, Gary Vaynerchuk and The Daily Show. 

This is all content I can find everywhere else, on Twitter, television, Linkedin, etc.

Discoverability is one of the main issues that’s continued to plague Snapchat, and seems to be hurting IGTV as well. With all of the choices we have today, am I going to invest five minutes into a random piece of longform content that an algorithm thinks I want to watch? Possibly.

The likelihood increases dramatically, however, if it’s something I’ve searched out.

With all of the data these major platforms have at their disposal, why do they continue to make such large errors in assessing what their users actually want? Why do they fail in targeting new spaces like Google did with social, or Instagram seems to be doing with long-form video?

In reading about the Google+ failure, one anonymous former Googler said the company was “late to market” and motivated from “a competitive standpoint” as they looked to take on Facebook.

If you’ve never read this infamous tweetstorm from another former Google+ engineer, it describes office politics, siloed teams and a lack of clear vision as major factors in the demise of Google’s failed social network. Here’s the start of that thread:

Given the recent Instagram drama surrounding the founders’ departure from Facebook, it’s likely that similar forces were at play with IGTV.

Whatever the reason, IGTV hasn’t lived up to the hype of last year’s launch, and it may never take off at all. Instagram itself doesn’t seem to be losing steam. But they badly misread the market and their users’ appetite (or lack thereof) for long form content. 

The lesson might be this: You don’t have to be all things to all people.

Or, as Facebook Watch’s LaVar Ball says, “Stay in yo’ lane!”

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Instagram, Tom Sawyer, The Terminator and Don Draper

I’m almost convinced Facebook staged Wednesday’s all-day near-blackout on purpose.

If Instagram is still down by the time you’re reading this, then you’ve certainly got a few extra minutes to burn, so do me a favor. Read Chapter 2 of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, where Mark Twain explained social media marketing all the way back in 1884.

Oh great, you’re back. More on Tom Sawyer in a moment.

The blackout was devastating. Lindsay Lohan couldn’t take it, requesting that Instagram contact her. The lower-case, no punctuation request/demand was softened by a “please,” but she seemed to mean business.

The Fat Jewish (no really, that’s a popular influencer’s nom de guerre on social media) wondered what would happen if the ‘Gram never returned. Joking about Instagram models going unemployed was low-hanging fruit, knowing he’d garner tons of “engagement” when people clapped-back at him, asking where he’d go to steal content.

Others wondered if Elizabeth Warren had already broken up Big Tech.

Everybody was talking about it on Twitter, since it was the only major platform operating at the time. (Sorry, Snapchat.)

Make no mistake, the prolonged Instagram blackout was a cultural event. It was bigger than Beto O’Rourke confirming his presidential run (maybe push that back a day, strategy team?), The Bachelor Finale recaps or Donald Trump grounding faulty 737s.

The visceral, unhinged reaction to the longest blackout in Facebook’s history was a depressing confirmation of what we’ve long since already accepted: our phones own us, and it’s rapidly getting worse. It’s a runaway train, and the distracted conductor’s not looking at the tracks ahead.

The alarming chart below made the rounds on Twitter two weeks ago. It’s no coincidence that the spike in pedestrian fatalities, which dropped consistently from 1990-2008, started climbing again in 2009, just two years after the introduction of the iPhone in January 2007. While the simultaneous proliferation of SUVs certainly plays an important role in this chart (heavier vehicles with more force, more horsepower and higher carriages creating deadlier impacts to the torso), phones monopolizing our attention both inside and outside of the vehicle are, without question, an irresistible force.

This chart is truly tragic. The “Don’t Drink and Drive” message we were bombarded with since the late 1980s made a protracted but significant impact over a 20-year period. Sadly, all of that work has basically been undone in half the time. Our smartphone addiction is Exhibit A.

The machines are literally killing us, and Skynet isn’t even self-aware yet. Or is it?

Maybe that’s why Mark Zuckerberg reportedly has a secret escape hatch under his office. So he can slither out of Menlo Park when Judgment Day is upon us and the machines have no use for us.

They’re already messing with us.Social media platforms are engineered to create psychological cravings. So what do you do for news, information or entertainment when you can’t get on Facebook or Instagram? Tun on the TV? Go to your local newspaper website?

What’s the URL for that again? (“Nevermind – what’s new on Netflix?”)

Journalists didn’t seem to mind Facebook and Instagram taking a siesta. After all, Twitter drives their relevance, and to a lesser degree, referral traffic. When actual news happens, people find out first on Twitter. But wouldn’t it be nice if it was 2005 again, when people talked to each other at dinner, and you had to type in www.bostonglobe.com or www.sfchronicle.com to find out what’s really happening?

https://twitter.com/timothyorourke/status/1105896714026639360?s=11

The replies to this tweet were fascinating.

For one, people don’t want to pay for content. They’d rather be the content. (“@OneSlowDude” is an interesting handle, all things considered.)

Dear @OneSlowDude: If it’s free, you’re the product, brother.

Journalists rely on those subscriptions (that you don’t want to pay for) to feed their families. After all, who is going to work for free?

Henry Apple (no relation to Tim Apple, at least as far as I know) certainly isn’t willing to work for free. But guess what? Everybody on social media is. Zuckerberg must have read Chapter 2 of Tom Sawyer, because he’s convinced a billion people to whitewash his fence every month.

But back to the replies:

“The local news is fake, but Instagram ain’t!”

Perhaps you want more world news, and don’t care about what’s going on in your own backyard.

https://twitter.com/yesiamalicia_/status/1105968084735672320

World events are important. Alicia makes a point. Then again, what if the only news worth sharing is the news that hey, Facebook and Instagram are down?


It’s been a tough year for Facebook. Basically every story that’s come out in the last year has been negative, and now politicians want to break them up. They’ve lost control of their own narrative, which reminds me of the old Don Draper axiom of marketing.

Perhaps a little reminder from Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp was just what the doctor ordered. “You love us, and you can’t live without us.”

Finally, I’ll leave you with some Mark Twain:

“Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it—namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”

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Media Masters – Jessica Gioglio, Dunkin’ Donuts

I recently talked to Jessica Gioglio, Social Media Manager for Dunkin’ Donuts, about Dunkin’ Donuts social media strategy. Jessica also gives us a preview of “The Power of Visual Storytelling” book she co-authored.

Finally, she explains how Dunkin’ handled social media during the Boston Marathon tragedy in 2013.

More from Media Masters
Media Masters on iTunes | Media Masters on SoundCloud

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Ten Easy Digital/Social Predictions for 2013

I’ll spare you a plodding introduction. Prediction lists are quick and easy. Here’s 10 of them for 2013.

Google+ Rises – Google, the company that made its fortune in search, will figure out that G+ isn’t a social network, it’s a content directory. Google+’s best chance at success lies in its bread and butter – SEO – by giving big brands, celebrities and other entities the opportunity to dictate organic search. Look for Google to start showcasing G+ content in organic search results. It’s already starting to happen; expect more of it in 2013.

Snapchat Gets More Buzz – Snapchat, a messaging service seemingly inspired by Inspector Gadget with its self-destructing (sort of, but not really) messages, photos and videos, will go mainstream. It’s just starting to pick up buzz and the teenage demographic. Parents are no longer in the dark about Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but how many know that their kids are on Snapchat? After all, teenagers are always looking for loopholes, so if you tell them they can’t use Instagram, they’ll just go somewhere else. For now, Snapchat seems to be that destination.

MySpace never really takes off – Tom may be sitting on his $580 million while you slave away hoping for another half day off, and Justin Timberlake may have signed on to be the new face of the old social network, but so far, there’s no evidence that every day users have interest in reclaiming their old space on the new Myspace. I’m not holding my breath. Besides, I always liked Friendster better back in the day.

Facebook and Twitter continue aggressive monetization push – Facebook changes the rules of engagement on a weekly basis, and they’re guaranteed to continue to seek out more revenue channels. Now a billion users strong, Facebook has gotten very aggressive about monetization, looking to charge fan pages anywhere from $2-25,000 for millions guaranteed impressions from, get this, their own audience! In December 2010, I predicted in this space that Facebook would charge brands in 2011. Looks like I was ahead of the curve at the time. But it was inevitable. As for Twitter, look for them to follow suit, and look for more tweets from people you never followed popping up in your timeline.

Social Networks Continue to Sell Your Data and Content – Most of us will continue to agree to the Terms of Service without thinking. But no worries, that picture you took of your lunch isn’t valuable anyway. But your data, what you like, and your user behaviors are likely all up for grabs.

Here Come the Commercials – With DVRs and On Demand neutralizing commercials on television, look for advertisers to seek out targeted video ad placements on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Social Media Gurus Go Out of Business – As Corporate America continues to staff up to manage social media internally, it will continue to realize that the only thing many outside social media consultants are actually selling is unquantifiable “engagement,” not to mention their own books. Those who refuse to measure ROI (with ridiculous justifications like, “What’s the ROI of your mother?”) or generate tangible results will be out of business. I think we’ll see more and more of the self-promoting, self-proclaimed “gurus” running for the comforts of a steady paycheck with a full-time job in Corporate America.

Journalism Continues to Die – As the gap that separates professional journalists from citizens narrows and the race to be first with a story intensifies, you’ll see more shoddy reporting from professional news outlets. This trend is well underway, but as traditional media relies more upon gathering information from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, the quality of reporting will continue its steady erosion.

The Daily Deals Industry Finally Dies – Either Groupon, Living Social or both will go out of business this year. There’s a million stories out there about Groupon “deals” putting restaurants out of business. It will finally come back to haunt them and the shoe will land on the other foot. Remember when they turned down a $6 billion dollar offer from Google? Who was dumber? Google for offering, or Groupon for turning it down?

1,000 More Bad Ideas Emerge – They’ll be easier to spot this year. Let’s face it, for every Pinterest, there’s 40 startups out their trying to be Pinterest-meets-Tumblr-meets-Instagram. Trust me. They’re all horrible ideas.

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Is Your Mac Becoming an iOS Device?

I’ve been using Macs since I first knew what a computer was, but with each passing OS update, the lines are blurring. Today’s announcement that OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion will include iMessage functionality means that your desktop is slowly merging with iOS.

At some point, they’ll probably be the same operating system.

Mashable has more