Horizontal VS vertical videos

IGTV Launch Event

As I lazily scroll through Instagram, I am often suggested to carry on watching longer videos on IGTV, yet I almost never do. Since it launched in June 2018, I have always been a bit confused about it, and to be completely honest, I never liked it. Somehow, the idea of entering the IGTV world bothers me. But first, what is IGTV? IGTV is a video sharing platform by Instagram which takes the form of either an additional feature on the Instagram app or that of a standalone app. Overall, I find IGTV to be a bit confusing, I just don’t get its point and I cannot be the only one since I don’t know a single person who uses it regularly. Online articles have confirmed this suspicion I had; IGTV hasn’t been the great success the Instagram team had hoped for. Just imagine, it should have been a competitor to YouTube, and yet I only learnt a couple of days ago IGTV also has its own app. And okay, maybe in the past year it has been doing a bit better but still does not compare to the initial predictions.

I can’t help but ask myself ‘why’. Why has IGTV been so fruitless?Instagram is highly successful; every time it has adapted something from Snapchat it outperformed the competition. In addition, video consumption is increasing, Cisco predicts that in just 2 years, 80% of the world’s Internet traffic will be from videos streaming. So what happened this time with Instagram? I did some research, asked some people and tried it out for myself. Here’s what I now think of it:

  • Disconnected from IG – IGTV has recently improved but initially, it felt incredibly disconnected from Instagram, almost like it took you to a different unfamiliar universe. Now it is more connected with one’s feed and this kind of integration made it more userfriendly.
  • The interface does not seem flexible enough – when exploring IGTV I felt overwhelmed by all of the things that were going on (the instant video playing is something Instagram is putting emphasis on as it should mimic the feeling of turning on a TV and immediately being able to view a channel). All in all, I felt at the mercy of the IG algorithm as if I was not allowed to search for videos I was interested in. Furthermore, in 2018, the algorithm led some users to some very violent and problematic videos.
  • Creators may feel demotivated to upload on IGTV – IGTV discriminates between verified accounts (which are allowed to make up to 1h long videos) and ‘regular’ users (only allowed to 10mins videos). In addition, there are no ads (which is a plus for viewers) but this also means that there is no monetisation for influencers, who still have to rely on sponsors.
  • And finally, the vertical video layout! This is a very unfamiliar way of viewing videos for all of us and threw many people off. But let’s break it down…

Instagram says horizontal mode is now outdated and awkward as our phones are designed in portrait mode and these are the devices we use the most to watch videos. In other words, the new IGTV should facilitate videos’ production and consumption on our smartphones. Yet the vertical layout of the video forces content creators to create new stuff. It is not easy to find a format someone could use for both YouTube and IGTV and, as the former is more established, creators may not be motivated enough to switch to IGTV.

The manner in which human sense perception is organised, the medium in which it is accomplished, is determined not only by nature but by historical circumstances as well.

Walter Benjamin, 5

But most people, myself included, simply do not like vertical mode for longer videos. Could it be that, historically speaking, we are so used to perceive videos horizontally that we are simply not comfortable with the shift? Generally, the recycling and modernisation of old mass media from new digital companies is rather successful but could it be that this time we won’t abandon horizontal mode? Do we really find it more pleasing to the eye? Are we just used to it or does it have a deeper impact on our subconscious?

I really am not sure whether IGTV’s low success is due to psychological reasons or if the features/app should just be better developed or integrated.

Feel free to let me know what you think below. 🙂

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  • Philipp26897
    Posted December 10, 2019 at 5:01 pm 0Likes

    hey Isotta,
    Interesting post.
    I don’t know the app, so I can’t tell my opinion based from experiences. But based on the linked video I have the feeling that users mostly watch videos from influencers and not friends, so basically videos from strangers. The reason might be that influencers make use of the long videos to promote their products . Since people might not feel very connected with strangers, people might lose the interest of using the app. Another reason that might explain the low success is that people experience fear of missing out.
    I haven’t used it, so these are just some ideas that I could imagine explain the low success. And I agree that a vertical video seems not natural, I would have the feeling I would talk to a person.

  • Connor
    Posted December 10, 2019 at 9:04 pm 0Likes

    Forced vertical videos, 10 minute videos only, and no ads. Yeah, that’s definitely enough to scare away both creators and companies! Until I saw this post, I had no idea this platform even existed, and I reckon that that’s exactly because of the things you brought up here. Vertical videos have an extremely narrow field of view, which is an unpleasant experience, as we can see far more than that in person. Horizontal videos also have a more limited vision than we do, but it is far less noticeable because of it’s orientation. We generally like to be aware of our surroundings, and I think that vertical videos will never definitively replace horizontal videos for that reason.

    And other than that, the maximum video length and lack of ads drive people and companies away for very obvious reasons, and I can’t honestly believe that anyone expected this to compete with the larger video sharing platforms with a system like that.

  • Quann
    Posted December 17, 2019 at 4:06 pm 0Likes

    Interesting posts.
    I do think the convergence of different media happens all time. Just like it is not hard to find traces of traditional media such as paper or even scroll still exist in the digital interfaces. And I agree with what you mention about the change of format – vertical or horizontal – is bothering. But maybe it is a strategy how Instagram company tries to use IGTV to incorporate users who is more familiar with traditional media -tv and simultaneously want to fit in the trend of nowadays mobile phone users?

  • IsottaT
    Posted December 19, 2019 at 8:19 pm 0Likes

    Hello everyone! I just wanted to give you an update on what I think of IGTV. In the past weeks, I have been trying to use IGTV more and more. I ‘m slowly getting used to it yet I do not enjoy it. I found that John Mayer ha created a whole talk show through IGTV. While it is fairly entertaining because of the topics and guests, you can never see the full face of John Mayer and whatever guest he’s having. So I still think the vertical video setting is incredibly frustrating and stops me from properly experiencing the video.

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