Instagram is taking its most aggressive steps yet to challenge YouTube: the app is piloting a series of features that will allow influencers to make money off their videos. Instagram announced that it’s testing commercials in IGTV videos and the ability for creators to sell “badges” to fans during their live streams.
Both features come long after YouTube has introduced similar monetization features for its video creators, but could help Facebook lure talent from its biggest rivals.
Instagram will begin rolling out ads to IGTV this week, though the company is only testing the feature “with a small group” of accounts, so many users may not see the new in-app commercials right away. The ads, which can be up to 15 seconds long, will appear when a user taps through to continue watching an IGTV video from their main feed. The company says it will also experiment with letting users skip ads “to make sure the final result works well for people, creators and advertisers.”
Most importantly for influencers, Facebook plans to share revenue from the ads in an arrangement that sounds similar to YouTube’s, with creators keeping “at least 55 percent,” according to an Instagram spokesperson.
Instagram influencers will also have the option to monetize their live streams by selling in-app “badges” to fans during live streams. Badges are displayed prominently next to viewers’ handles and the broadcaster can see who has paid for badges to give them on-air shoutouts. Initially, Instagram users who sell badges will get 100 percent of the revenue but the company “will explore revenue share for the product in the future,” according to a spokesperson.
The company will also allow Instagram stars to sell products in their live streams, in an update expected “in the coming months.”
The updates come almost two years after Instagram launched IGTV to take on YouTube, and as Instagram faces even more competition from TikTok, which is also reportedly experimenting with monetization features. And while it’s still not clear if IGTV will be as lucrative as YouTube or viral as TikTok’s meme machine, in-app commercials will at least give Instagram’s highest profile users more reasons to keep their content within Facebook’s ecosystem.