NEW YORK, United States — YouTube is forming a new division dedicated to fashion and beauty content partnerships, led by Derek Blasberg. The appointment comes less than a week after Instagram launched its long-form video app, IGTV, in a clear bid to compete with the Google-owned platform.
Blasberg will be based in New York and report to a team led by YouTube’s Kelly Merryman, vice president of content partnerships. He is tasked with cultivating relationships with brands and high-profile people in the industry so that they will use the platform more often, more effectively and build audiences there. Merryman’s team has similar divisions dedicated to news, sports, television, gaming and other categories and had been looking for the right person to lead its fashion and beauty industry relationships. A different division at YouTube will continue to focus on fashion and beauty influencers who built their followings on the platform.
Instagram hired Eva Chen, the former editor-in-chief of Lucky Magazine, in 2015 to play a similar role as head of fashion partnerships at Instagram. Since then, the platform has deepened its connection with the fashion and beauty sectors by working with designers, brands, stylists, makeup artists and influencers to ensure they get the most out of Instagram. Chen’s team assists in creating content and helps these industry players engage with their audiences.
With Blasberg, YouTube has found a popular, well-connected frontman to court fashion and beauty leaders. A former columnist and editor for Style.com, Harper’s Bazaar and other fashion and lifestyle publications for over a decade, Blasberg is leaving his role as the host of CNN Style on CNN International after two years and heading to YouTube full time. He will retain a role as a contributing editor at Condé Nast’s Vanity Fair, where he was appointed the title of Our Man on the Street in 2015.
“I'm looking forward to bridging the world of YouTube creators with the global style and beauty industries in this newly created role and department,” said Blasberg in a statement.
Blasberg is a smart hire, but he has his work cut out for him. Instagram has an outsized influence in the highly visual fashion world. The platform and its fashion partnerships team have become an active part of the industry scene, most recently sponsoring a table at the Met Gala and supporting tentpole events like the CFDA Awards by installing and running Instagram-friendly photo sets. With the launch of IGTV, brands and influencers have a new outlet for vertically aligned videos for up to one hour in length, edging closer to something more typically found on YouTube.
“Vertical video is ideal for fashion and it’s a format that younger audiences are really comfortable with,” said Jim O’Neill, principal analyst at Ooyala, a video and analytics technology company. “The whole idea of up to an hour-long option is potentially really big for Instagram influencers, more so than even brands.”
YouTube has some advantages, including a larger user base — 1.8 billion unique monthly visitors to Instagram’s 1 billion — who are already trained to search for videos on the platform. On YouTube, Chanel has 1.1 million subscribers; a recent campaign video for its Bleu de Chanel Parfum was seen 3.8 million times. On Instagram, where the house has 28.5 million followers, the same commercial was viewed 250,000 times in the feed post format.
“In this newly created role, Derek will collaborate with our incredible creators and diverse portfolio of brands to achieve even more success," said Merryman in a statement.
YouTube already has some fashion trailblazers: model Karlie Kloss launched her own channel, Klossy, in 2015 and now has over 700,000 subscribers. She recently released a series sponsored by Ford as part of a partnership with her nonprofit Kode with Klossy, that features her interviewing trailblazers in science and technology.
We are so used to quick, bite-sized content on Instagram and YouTube really is for the long form.
The platform is also more popular with younger users. According to a recent Pew Center study of teens ages 13 to 17, 85 percent of teens said they use YouTube — the most commonly used platform — while 72 percent said they use Instagram. In terms of frequency of use, 35 percent of respondents said they use Snapchat more than other social media platforms, while 32 percent use YouTube the most and only 15 percent use Instagram the most.
Chriselle Lim, a fashion and beauty influencer who is often found in the front row at fashion shows around the world, said YouTube is a better platform for her tutorials and narrative videos. She’s been posting on the platform for almost 10 years and said her Instagram audience (1.1 million followers) and YouTube audience (761,000 subscribers) are completely different, with the latter being younger.
“I don’t see YouTube going away because it has such a separate audience and community there,” she said.
Lim is interested to see if Instagram users actually watch longer videos on the platform, because she knows that many users flip through Instagram Stories quickly. “We are so used to quick, bite-sized content on Instagram and YouTube really is for the long-form,” said Lim. She is going to save her more highly produced content for YouTube for now, but adds that it’s too early to say how she will approach IGTV.
Deepica Mutyala, an influencer who got her start after a YouTube beauty tutorial she posted in 2015 went viral, said her audiences on both platforms are about the same size. But her YouTube viewers are more global and younger, and brands pay higher rates for branded video on the service than on Instagram, in part because the platform is better suited for high production quality content. (She has 192,000 subscribers on YouTube and 168,000 followers on Instagram.)
“[For brands], it’s not always about getting the views,” said Mutyala, adding that this might change with the launch of IGTV. But she hopes the vertical video format, which resembles a FaceTime video call, will be a place for looser, more experimental videos. “I naturally film with my phone vertically anyways.”
“[IGTV] is sort of making [Instagram] a one-stop shop,” she continued. “You’re getting YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook all in one.”