How Toutiao is trying to be more than just a news app
China’s tech giants Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are known to have their hands in nearly every tech sector -- artificial intelligence, the sharing economy, autonomous cars, media, gaming and more.
Now it looks like another company is moving towards that direction.
(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba.)
Chinese media reported that Jinri Toutiao, the country’s most popular news and content aggregator, has just added a personal loan feature in the app for some users. Non-student users older than 20 can apply for loans of up to 200,000 yuan (US$30,000). Interest rates will be refreshed daily.
In China, over 120 million people spend an average of an hour and 13 minutes on Toutiao everyday, making it the country’s most popular news and content app.
It tries to keep people hooked with a news feed driven heavily by algorithms, showing content tailored to the reader’s interests and habits.
As of October last year, over 1.2 million content creators were publishing 500,000 items each day, including articles and videos. However, many of them are clickbait and ads, pushed by content creators hoping to hit traffic targets to reap rewards.
But Toutiao's rise has also attracted the government's attention. In April, authorities accused it of carrying vulgar content and misleading ads. Days later, its mobile app was removed from stores, its humor app was shut down, and the company was ordered to clean up its content.
Still, some believe Bytedance, which owns Toutiao as well as viral video app Tik Tok, will be among the next generation of tech giants to reshape China’s tech scene.
In June, Toutiao launched a games section on its Android app, where users can download games and read articles about gaming -- a move seen by many observers as a challenge to gaming giant Tencent. Toutiao is also reportedly working on a game live streaming product and recruiting famous game streamers.