Instagram will increase its video time limit from one minute to 10 minutes for most users, in an attempt to lure younger viewers away from YouTube.
In the expansion, announced Wednesday, Instagram accounts with large audiences will be able to go as long as an hour. Video will be available through Instagram or a new app called IGTV. The video will eventually give Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, more opportunities to sell advertising.
It is the latest instance in which Instagram has ripped a page from a rival’s playbook in an effort to preserve its status as a place for young people to share and view content. In this case, Instagram is mimicking Google’s YouTube. Facebook and Instagram have also copied features of Snapchat – another magnet for teens and young adults.
Instagram, now nearly eight years old, is moving further from its roots as a photo-sharing service as it dives headlong into longer-form video.
The initiative comes as Facebook struggles to attract teens, while also dealing with a scandal that exposed its leaky controls for protecting users’ personal information.
Instagram’s CEO, Kevin Systrom, told the Associated Press that he hopes IGTV will emerge as a hub of creativity for relative unknowns who turn into internet sensations with fervent followings among teens and young adults.
That is what’s already happening on YouTube, which has become the world’s most popular video outlet since Google bought it for $1.76bn nearly 12 years ago. YouTube now boasts 1.8 billion users.
Instagram, which Facebook bought for $1bn six years ago, now has 1 billion users, up from 800 million nine months ago.
More importantly, 72% of US kids ranging from 13 to 17 years old use Instagram, second to YouTube at 85%, according to the Pew Research Center. Only 51% of people in that group now use Facebook, down from 71% from a similar Pew survey in 2014-15.
That trend appears to be one of the reasons that Facebook is “hedging its bets” by opening Instagram to the longer-form videos typically found on YouTube, said the analyst Paul Verna of the research firm eMarketer.
Besides giving Instagram another potential drawing card, longer clips are more conducive for video ads lasting from 30 seconds to one minute. Instagram doesn’t currently allow video ads, but Systrom said it eventually would. When the ads come, Instagram intends to share revenue with the videos’ creators – just as YouTube already does.
“We want to make sure they make a living because that is the only way it works in the long run,” Systrom said.
The ads also will help Facebook sustain its revenue growth. Total spending on online video ads in the US is expected to rise from nearly $18bn this year to $27bn in 2021, according to eMarketer.
IGTV’s programming format will consist exclusively of vertical video designed to fill the entire screen of smartphones, which are emerging as the main way younger people watch video. By contrast, most YouTube videos fill only a portion of the screen unless the phone is tilted horizontally.
Snapchat began featuring vertical video before Instagram, another example of its penchant for copying rivals.
But Systrom sees it differently. “This is acknowledging vertical video is the future and we want the future to come more quickly, so we built IGTV.”