Toutiao tried to buy Reddit – China’s latest business and technology news

Business & Technology

A summary of the top news in Chinese business and technology for November 7, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

People use an escalator outside the headquarters of ChemChina (China National Chemical Corporation) in Beijing, China, February 4, 2005. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

Toutiao is 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. In August, Reuters reported that Toutiao, valued at $500 million in 2014, was “raising at least $2 billion at a valuation of over $20 billion in its latest funding round.”

Now The Information reports (paywall) that Toutiao tried last year to buy Reddit, the anarchic social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website.

  • The attempted acquisition “reveals the Chinese company’s ambitions to become a global media juggernaut.”
  • The article says that “Toutiao’s management team has been studying the U.S. market and building relationships with U.S. media company executives,” and the company “is still actively looking for partnerships, investments and acquisition targets in the U.S. and elsewhere.”
  • Toutiao invested in a news aggregation startup in India last year, and runs an English-language news app called TopBuzz.

Why is Toutiao so popular in China? My theory is that while most Chinese news sites and apps are full of boring content because of state control, censorship, and propaganda, Toutiao makes it possible to see a feed of only the stuff that interests an individual reader, and ignore everything else. Therefore it is arguable whether Toutiao’s technology and experience in China will prove useful abroad.