If I could make online video explainers all day long, I would. So imagine my delight at discovering Delve.tv, an experimental site/feed/channel (what are we calling them now?) that uses Instagram as its primary platform. How can you explain anything meaningful in a mere 15 seconds of video? I had to click through just to satisfy my curiosity:
Okay, maybe calling Delve's Instagram videos "explainers" is a stretch. But that's precisely what makes them interesting—and that's by design, according to creator Adam Westbrook. "Explainers are often the end of a journey—'everything you need to know about X in two minutes,'" Westbrook tells Co.Design. "I want Delve to be the beginning of a learning journey for people. That's where the name comes from—it's a call for people to delve deeper into something. A measure for success for me isn't how many people watched a video, but did anyone feel so fascinated by a subject that they went on Amazon and bought a book about it? Or even just spent 15 minutes on Wikipedia?"
In other words, Westbrook isn't using Instagram as a procrustean opportunity to fit a traditional explainer into the medium's formal constraints. Instead, he rethought what the "job" of an explainer should be if it were to appear on Instagram. The solution: Give viewers a movie trailer for the mind, not the whole movie. If Delve's 15-second tease about the guy who "really invented cinema" doesn't tickle your urge to fire up Wikipedia, what else would? Not that the formal constraints aren't interesting, too. "You lose some visual devices, such as continuum of movement, but at the same time you gain a visual simplicity which excites me," Westbrook says. "In 15 seconds, you have space for three shots, and it feels like returning to visual storytelling in the purest 'montage' sense when you can juxtapose three images to tell a story."
Delve.tv is still a work-in-progress, and the site also features longer-form video essays cut from the "Everything Is a Remix" cloth. The Instagram-powered "tease-splainer" model is innovative, but in order to do its job of sending viewers down their own educational rabbit hole, the videos could stand to provide a few more pointers to get people started. If Westbrook wants to get people to look up the guy who "really invented cinema" right after watching his video, why not offer a link in the Instagram comments? That might seem like too much spoon-feeding, but reducing the friction between "huh, that's really interesting" to "how do I learn more?" could be Delve.tv's killer app—especially on mobile devices, where most people are encountering the Instagrams anyway.
"The solution is going to be part content but also part context," Westbrook says. "I think helping people find the right frame of mind to learn something is key and part of the project involves exploring new ways to do this. All this knowledge is there and just a click away, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily easy to understand or access." Here's hoping Delve.tv keeps evolving, regardless of what video platform Westbrook decides to put it on.