China’s regulator for the media and entertainment sector, SAPPRFT (State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television) is getting pretty serious on Toutiao.
Toutiao is a revolutionary app in the Chinese attention economy that uses AI and content aggregation and has become quite popular in recent times.
China’s media watchdog ordered news aggregator Jinri Toutiao and live-streaming app Kuaishou to clean up content as of April, 2018. Toutiao has even been taking down from the app store, as it struggles to adjust to the new requirements.
BYTEDANCE IS A RISING PLAYER IN CHINA’S APP ATTENTION ECONOMY
Toutiao is run by Bytedance, who require acquired musical.ly, one of the most viral apps among global teens. Bytedance also operates the largest news aggregation platform in China Jinri Toutiao or “Daily Headlines” in English. What makes Bytedance special is its not a spin-off investment of either Tencent or Alibaba, a rare feat today in Chinese’s fast moving tech scene.
However, China’s regulatory considerations are impacting its business. According to the China South Morning Post:
China has shut down more than 13,000 websites in the last three years as Beijing sought to tighten its grip on the internet.
On April 9th, even major mobile apps of four of the most popular news apps in China, including the most popular aggregator, Jinri Toutiao, were removed from a number of Chinese smartphone app stores following reports of a crackdown by the country’s media watchdog.
VULGAR CONTENT CRACKDOWN
Bytedance’s jokes app was even forceably removed permanently, Neihan Duanzi, from app stores. SAPPRFT has pretty strict criteria for what’s considered spam, misinformation or inappropriate content in China’s attention economy.
On April 10th, 2018 the State Administration of Radio and Television (SAPPRFT) ordered Toutiao to permanently close down Toutiao’s joke app Neihan Duanzi (内涵段子) due to “vulgar” content.
Jinri Toutiao founder and CEO, Zhang Yiming, went as far as publishing an open apology.
Jinri Toutiao will permanently shut down the Neihan Duanzi and the app’s official account. The product took the wrong turn. The content that appears [on Neihan Duanzi] go against core socialist values and we did not do a thorough job in guiding public opinion. Therefore, we accept the penalty and I take full responsibility for it.
Toutouia has also rubbed competitors the wrong way as in August, 2017, Weibo accused Jinri Toutiao’s Wei Toutiao app of illegally acquiring and using Weibo content. At that time, Weibo suspended its cooperation with Jinri Toutiao, according to TechNode.
Weibo is pivoting hard to short videos is part of the platform’s game plan. Meanwhile Bytedance’s apps are rising and are seen by some as a threat to even Tencent’s popular apps.
Toutiao, with about 120 million (DAU) daily active users and significant app-retention , is an ecosystem to watch in the world’s evolving in-app retention economy. In 2017, Toutiao was pretty much crowned China’s most addictive content-centric app. Toutiao’s 74-minutes a day, is one of the most sticky apps for the Chinese consumer.
2018 represents a period of adversity for Toutiao as it has also been accused “Fake Ads”. In an era of clickbait and attention exploits, China’s regulators want to make sure Bytedance understands where it crosses the line with “vulgar, violent, gory, pornographic and harmful” content.
Bytedance is at the Bleeding Edge of App-Retention and News Aggregation
Either way, Toutiao has 120 DAUs out of 232 million monthly active users and is rising to a dominant position in the space with plans to expand globally. Bytedance’s emphasis on AI-personalization based on those user numbers and sticky-app engagement means in the news-aggregation space, Toutiao has a fair chance of breaking into global markets.