Publishers see promise with Instagram Live

The live video market got a little more bloated this week, but that hasn’t deterred publishers from adopting the latest product in the space.

On Monday, Instagram rolled out its live video feature to all U.S. users. Publishers told Digiday that they plan to use Instagram Live to give followers a behind-the-scenes look at how their content is made and to promote Facebook campaigns. Some publishers planned to create original content for the new feature, while others have simply repurposed video streams they were already using for Facebook Live.

“This is just giving those people [on Instagram] the option to get into live programming,” said Maia McCann, LittleThings editor-in-chief. “Everyone has their favorite social media platform, this is just another space to put live content.”

Instagram Live is pretty similar to Facebook Live, but the main difference is that Instagram Live videos disappear immediately after the user stops recording. Given that live video already exists on Facebook, YouTube and Periscope, another platform getting into the mix could create a crowded marketplace. Instagram declined interview requests for this story.

“Certainly there is a huge expansion in supply [of video on social platforms],” said Doug Arthur, managing director at Huber Research Partners. “But is there capacity among viewers and advertisers? I suspect at some point, the answer is no. But I can’t for sure say that we’ve already reached a point of saturation.”

Despite the glut of live video products across platforms, publishers told Digiday that they’ll adopt Instagram Live because the audiences they’ve accumulated on Instagram (i.e. young and engaged) are valuable enough to make the video experimentation worthwhile.

Some publishers also said that they find live video itself valuable, even if it has been spread to so many platforms. The most bullish source was Time Inc. Group Digital Director Will Lee, who said, “There can never be enough live, for us.”

Melanie Berliet, Thought Catalog executive editor, believes Instagram Live is more than just a clone of Facebook Live. Facebook Live is suited for recurring programs whereas Instagram Live is suited for fly-on-the-wall content, she said.

For example, if Thought Catalog was doing a photo shoot at a Christmas tree farm that was going to be published later in the year, it could run a promotional Instagram Live video of the photographers walking around the farm in real time, she said.

“Now, with Instagram Live, we have a way to give our most loyal fans a real-time glimpse into our artistic process without leaving a paper trail of it before the formal release of the [photo] shoot,” she said.

Instagram Live could also be used as a promotional channel to tease Facebook content. Food Network has used Instagram Stories to tease upcoming Facebook Live content, but it’s now considering switching its teasers over to Instagram Live, said Kate Gold, Food Network social media director.

To promote one of its Facebook Live shows, LittleThings streamed an interview with the show’s host on Instagram Live.

“Our following on Instagram is smaller than our Facebook following, and the [Instagram followers] really know us well, so we want to give them an opportunity to see what’s going on,” McCann said.

LittleThings has also used Instagram Live to take audiences behind the scenes. Prior to shooting a Facebook video about Santa, it used Instagram Live to give viewers a glimpse of how the Facebook shoot was being set up. McCann has also contemplated using Instagram Live to stream parts of company parties.

Publishers said that they currently have been unable to see how an Instagram Live video performed once it disappears, which occurs immediately after it is finished streaming. Several publishers said they don’t plan to produce original content for Instagram Live until its measurement improves.

Popsugar Studios President David Grant noted that although Instagram Live metrics are currently wanting, parent company Facebook drastically improved its video metrics over time. Grant expects measurement improvements will soon come to Instagram Live as well.

But even without thorough reporting, a few publishers said that the feature is still worth testing, even if that only involves repurposing content from other platforms for now. For example, Scripps brands Food Network and HGTV have simultaneously displayed the same video stream (but shot with different devices) on Facebook Live and Instagram Live.

Eric Gillin, Epicurious executive editor, summed up the test-and-learn mode that many publishers are in with regard to Instagram Live: “At the end of the day, we’ll just set up a camera, do something cool, and see if people like it.”

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