Toutiao: The Rise of the News Aggregation Giant

David Henriques

There’s nothing new about curating the news and aggregating content, but it goes without saying that content discovery has drastically changed in the past decade. Now consumers expect a frictionless delivery and readily-available news content in return for their interest, and China’s most addictive news app, Toutiao, has gone far beyond that concept. Toutiao may not be a name familiar in the West, but it’s quickly grown into one of China’s most important platforms. It has over 120 million daily users, who spend an average of 74 minutes on it every day, which is more than the average Facebook and WeChat user. The incredible success of this smartphone app has grown to be known as one of the next generation of Chinese tech giants, challenging the tech trinity of Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.

what-is-toutiao

What is Toutiao?

Toutiao literally translates to “headline news” and is the number 1 intelligent content distribution platform in China. It allows individuals and media organizations to create their own official accounts for self-publishing and its user base has increased tremendously. Over 85% of its audience are under the age of 30 and the majority are male. It’s a product of Bytedance, a company known for short video platforms like Douyin and Xigua Video.

 

Toutiao uses AI to aggregate and recommend news stories and the app’s machine-learning algorithms monitor users’ reading habits and offer customized feed including articles, videos and ads. Facebook and Twitter also utilize machine learning to refine recommendations, but the disadvantage of these platforms is that they are more dependent on social connections and include a large selection of mainstream media. In comparison, Toutiao has more than 1.2 million registered content publishers on the platform from businesses and media outlets to bloggers writing about an extremely diversified selection of content.

How does Toutiao work?

Toutiao initially showcases general content to a first-time user and then uses machine learning to learn about the reader’s learning habits and interests based on how the reader engages with the app. As the reader starts to use the platform more frequently, Toutiao adapts to the users’ interests and provides the most relevant content. What really makes the app unique is that it goes a step further to provide the reader with the most personalized news experience. It learns and understands by tracking user behavior from start to finish including what users click on, where they stop viewing content, the type of story they read, the time of day and even the physical location of the user.

 

How does Toutiao work?

 

Toutiao vs WeChat

 

Toutiao has the most powerful recommendation algorithms, which allows it to easily find and match marketers and readers. With the high penetration rate, Toutiao helps marketers target their potential customers and get a ton of content exposure. WeChat on the other hand is undoubtedly the number 1 platform in China and has attracted the most content contributors in comparison to any other platform. The philosophy behind the WeChat official account is still based on social networking where readers can only discover content either by following the creator or from sharing a post. Toutiao is steadily reforming the marketing and advertising industry, and choosing an alternative platform outside of WeChat can provide more flexibility to a marketing strategy.

 

How does Toutiao benefit brands?

 

As one of the thriving tech giants, Toutiao has a dynamic ecosystem that covers short-videos to content creation and curation platforms. Unlike WeChat users, content consumption is the primary focus of Toutiao users. The app has no additional features such as chat messaging to distract users from viewing new content. Brands interested in using the platform would now have access to Toutiao’s 700 million registered users that are constantly using the app to devour new and tailored made content.  Placing advertisements on the platform or releasing advertorials can have exceptional effects on a brands’ business.

 

Toutiao runs one of the best short video platforms in China, considering it is well integrated with Douyin. Douyin is a platform that has a majority user base of young Chinese consumers and it allows users to watch and produce entertaining and often funny videos. Toutiao is able to aggregate these videos all in one place to give brands a wide selection of tools to get creative and increase brand awareness on the platform. Geo-targeting on Toutiao can also give brands the upper hand if they want to utilize the app to the fullest.  Brands can launch a campaign across multiple cities and provinces throughout China and bring more sales with less costs considering that Chinese consumers who live in the same place have similar consumption habits. This is very valuable for O2O marketing and brands looking to get creative with their marketing campaign.

 

How does Toutiao benefit brands?

 

One of the biggest benefit that brands can get from Toutiao is through its targeted in-feed ads. The company claims they have cracked the code to keeping users interested, which proves to be working thus far. Toutiao sources content and distributes hundreds of thousands of news articles on a daily basis. Since the prime focus of the app is to create individualized content, it is very easy for brands to identify and cater to their audiences’ interests because this part is already taken care of by Toutiao. Brands that take full advantage of what this platform has to offer can definitely receive an impressive ROI. The ecosystem that Toutiao provides just might be the right breakthrough that brands need in order to set foot in the Chinese market.

Toutiao Reference material

David Henriques
David Henriques

Digital entrepreneur and co-founder of Sekkei Studio, a digital marketing agency in Shanghai, Paris and Hong Kong. More than 10 years of experience in helping the communication of foreign companies in China.

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2018 China digital sum up

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