News aggregator Toutiao now valued at over $20 billion - China’s latest business and technology news - SupChina
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News aggregator Toutiao now valued at over $20 billion – China’s latest business and technology news


Entrepreneur Zhang Yiming 张一鸣, age 34, founded Toutiao in March 2012. It’s a mobile app that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to personalize streams of news, videos, and other digital content for its readers, and generates revenue through advertising that is also tailored to precision-target consumers. Reuters reports that Toutiao, valued at $500 million in 2014, is “raising at least $2 billion at a valuation of over $20 billion in its latest funding round.”

The supersize valuation validates the new Chinese internet industry jargon “TMD,” referring to Toutiao, Meituan Dianping (something like a combination of discount offer site Groupon and restaurant review site Yelp), and Didi Chuxing, the ride-hailing company that destroyed Uber in China. TMD is, Reuters says, “seen by some industry insiders and analysts as China’s next BAT,” the country’s tech trinity of Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent.

One theory to explain the popularity of Toutiao: Most Chinese news sites and apps are full of boring content because of state control, censorship, and propaganda. There is plenty of interesting stuff on the Chinese internet, but you have to sift through advertising, propaganda, and a lot of boring content to find it. Toutiao makes it possible to see a feed of only the stuff that interests an individual reader, and ignore everything else.


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Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.