Blog Post

Why I will never click on your Instagram video, no matter how much you want me to

On Thursday, Instagram (s fb) co-founder Kevin Systrom introduced the Facebook-owned platform’s new video feature with the kind of hushed and reverential tones that are usually reserved for announcements about a new Pope, or a declaration of war. And in a sense it is a declaration of war: a war against Twitter, which wanted Instagram very badly and has its own short video feature known as Vine. But it is a war I refuse to take part in, and I don’t think I’m the only one — and that could reduce the likelihood that Instagram’s offering will ever truly become “the Instagram of video.”

Before someone brings it up, some of this is undoubtedly a “hey you kids — get off my lawn” response on my part. Not only am I old (so old I remember when phones couldn’t even take video) but I confess that I kind of liked Instagram the way it was, with just photos. It was quieter, more contemplative somehow. But I think there’s more to it than just liking things the way they were. Video and photos are very different animals in a lot of ways (the creator of 12seconds, an early video service, seems to agree).

For one thing, video is very difficult to scan or browse quickly, which is something I (and I’m assuming other users) like to do with photos and other types of content. I browse Instagram while I’m waiting for a train, while I’m in line for something or at the airport — any time I have a couple of minutes to spare. I can scroll through a surprisingly large number of photos and get a sense of what my friends are doing, but there’s no way I’m going to be able to do the same thing with video clips.

The noise factor

There’s also the problem of crappy videos, because let’s face it, there’s going to be tons of them. As Om pointed out in an interview on BloombergWest TV, this is likely to be a serious issue for any Instagram user — and it’s a problem that is compounded by the fact that videos take a much larger investment of time. While six seconds (the time limit for Vine) or fifteen seconds (the limit for Instagram) might not seem like a lot, when you are trying to browse and the video is irritating or just poor quality, it’s like an eternity.

Drew Breunig, a blogger who works in advertising technology, described the problem well in a post earlier this year about Vine and the idea of an “Instagram for video.” Given his job, you might expect Breunig to see a short video-clip sharing service as a gold mine, since it would be perfect for video ads — but he points out a lot of good reasons why video isn’t likely to take off. In effect, he says, the math doesn’t work:

“The problem with video social networks lies in variable Y: it takes much too long and too much attention to consume a single unit of content. This results in less feedback, which dries up the volume of content, which needs to be high to maintain a cache of enticing videos. And the network fails.”

That’s not to say there can’t be video-sharing networks that many people enjoy — Vimeo is pretty good, and so is YouTube, obviously (although I would agree with Breunig that it is a very different beast from what Instagram is trying to create). But it reduces the likelihood that such a network will ever become as huge and mass-market as Instagram, because it won’t appeal to enough users.

Great for kids — and for ads

None of this is to say that Vine and even Instagram’s video feature won’t get users, because they clearly will. My daughter and her friends are obsessed with Vine, and I’m sure it will find a home with many younger users who want a place to share funny clips of them making faces or singing along to crappy pop songs or whatever amuses them. And there’s clearly some value for Facebook in appealing to that demographic, since most of them (in my experience) never use Facebook any more.

There’s also no question that advertisers will be interested, and I think that is a big part of the reason why Twitter and Facebook/Instagram are so fired up about it: It is the perfect length for advertising, and therefore plenty of existing video assets from commercials and TV shows can be re-purposed for it, and video monetizes way better than simple banner-style ads (for now at least), which is why every media company is doing it.

So perhaps it makes sense for Facebook, and for Twitter, and for advertisers — but it doesn’t make sense for me, and I would suspect a large number of other users. And that’s why I won’t be clicking on your Instagram video, no matter how much you want me to.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Shutterstock / SueC

45 Responses to “Why I will never click on your Instagram video, no matter how much you want me to”

  1. Instagram is pathetic any way you look at it. Instagram representatives ddisable people’s accounts for NO legitimate reasons whatsoever. You could like a picture of a sunset and Instagram representatives will disable your account, citing terms of service violations. They will not properly respond and it is pointless to use another name to set up a new account, as it will get disabled again.

  2. This is so petty, don’t like it just post pictures and look at pictures, ignore the videos if it annoys you so much. They are much more worries in the world like death and crime than a 15 second video….

  3. Steve Outing

    Mathew: You’re the media writer who I nearly always nod my head in agreement when I read anything of yours. As we write on the same area, it’s as though we write from the same playbook, usually. But you’re way off with the Instagram video rant.

    See my recent blog post about how Instagram video will be a big game-changer for eyewitness news: http://mediadisruptus.com/2013/06/22/instagram-videos-eyewitness-news/

    Also, lots of crap videos on Instagram? So what? Most photos on Instagram are crap, too. I can skip over an Instragram user’s crappy videos as quickly as their crappy photos, and linger on the good stuff.

    Spring semester at CU-Boulder, I worked with some students on “Innovative Digital Storytelling for News,” and suggested to them that Vine could be significant for news and that they might want to try it. I wasn’t convinced of my own words to them, but found that they not only loved the Vine experience, but genuinely came up with innovative, worthwhile uses for Vine’s 6-second looping videos. I’m certain that Instagram’s 15 seconds and no looping will be much better for news purposes. … And I predict it will take off for personal, frivolous, and artistic uses — even more so than Vine, which is just a glorified animated GIF.

    • Mathew Ingram

      Thanks, Steve — I should have mentioned in the post that I do see some potential uses for Vine and Instagram when it comes to doing news. My response was solely from the point of view of an Instagram user looking at my personal feed. I think there is definitely some good to come from using these types of tools for journalism.

  4. Doug Muir

    Sorry, Matthew… I don’t buy it. Not one bit. You WILL watch Instagram videos, for the very same reason you look at static Instagram photos… Curiosity.