Instagram Takes on Snapchat With Its New Video Channel
Halloween is a gigantic social media smorgasbord, and few places are better to sample the delights than Instagram. Pet parades. Small children in Elsa costumes. Adults in Elsa costumes. It’s AWESOME. Which makes it the perfect holiday for Instagram to roll out its new video channel.
That’s right, Instagram is launching a video channel—a heavily curated, 24-hour deep dive into the very best videos Instagrammers post. Starting at 1pm on Saturday, Americans can pull up the app, click on the explore tab, and land in an immersive video viewer that will allow them to watch programming from all over the country. It’s like a pop-up cable network dedicated to Halloween.
It’s like a pop-up cable network dedicated to Halloween.
And like a cable network, Instagram will have humans choosing the programming. Consider them modern day talent scouts. From Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters, community director Amanda Kelso, dressed as Princess Leia, and more than a half dozen costumed members of her team will be sifting through posts to select and stream content while product manager Layla Amjadi makes sure the technology works without a glitch. They aim to capture every aspect of the holiday, from videos of the crowds gathered on Sixth Avenue for New York’s annual parade to videos produced by prominent artists to those taken in Anoka, Minnesota (Halloween Capital of the United States, seriously). The result will be two parts entertainment, one part straight-up news: this is what’s happening in the world right now.
The News Cycle
As I wrote last year, Instragram is becoming a formidable news service rivaling the Internet’s original newswire, Twitter. Images are replacing words for fast communication. And Instagram is easier to use than Twitter. So it’s no surprise that Instagram now has 400 million monthly active users, while Twitter has stalled out at 320 million. Even so, Twitter has still been better positioned to surface important events because it has had a more robust search engine and better tools for discovery. Earlier this year, that began to change as Instagram overhauled its Explore page to make it easier for users to discover new and trending information. The immersive video player is the latest tool to help users discover more real-time information.
But Instagram isn’t Twitter’s only rival on this front; Snapchat reports more than 100 million daily active users. The cheeky selfie-sharing service has several popular video products: On its Discover platform, video channels offer programming produced by major media companies and advertisers. It also has Snapchat Live, which broadcasts a string of user-created videos near you as well as coverage of big events like the recent Republican debates. And Snapchat stories feature a series of images and videos posted by your friends. Snapchat’s photos are meant to be consumed and destroyed—they literally disappear—whereas Instagram posts are designed to document and provide an archive. If Snapchat is social media’s CNN, then Instagram is IFC, home to independent films and documentaries.
The new immersive video viewer will also bring more mainstream attention to video on a platform still primarily known for its still images. Instagram launched its video product, which lets users shoot up to 15 seconds of footage and add filters, more than two years ago in June 2013. At the time, it was perceived to be a flop because users didn’t immediately take to it with the enthusiasm they had shown for the core photo product. But Instagram’s founders have always said it was growing at a steady pace.Many of the most creative videos are put together by visual artists and cinematographers. The immersive video viewer could spark the imagination of users less familiar with publishing videos on the platform.
Kelso and her crew will continue to publish cool video posts until midday Sunday. Users can submit posts for consideration by tagging them #IGHalloween. And as they’re watching the video channel, they can easily swipe through to skip boring ones, tap to like good ones, and click on the user posts to discover more content. Once the project concludes, the video feed will be available for users to discover indefinitely.
Meanwhile, Instagram will look for more universal events—music festivals, for example, or winter holidays as well as news events on par with the recent Nepal earthquake—to program on its pop-up video channel. For now, the service has no plans to open the channel to advertisers, but you can bet that users fall in love with it, the advertisers will, too.
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