Toutiao

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Toutiao
今日头条
Privately held company
Founded August 2012 (August 2012)
Founder Zhang Yiming
Headquarters Beijing, China
Area served
Mainland China
Services Information recommendation engine
Owner Beijing ByteDance Technology
Subsidiaries musical.ly
Flipagram
Website www.toutiao.com
Jinri Toutiao
Toutiao (Chinese characters).svg
"Jinri Toutiao" in Simplified (top) and Traditional (bottom) Chinese characters.
Simplified Chinese 今日头条
Traditional Chinese 今日頭條
Literal meaning Today's Headlines
Toutiao
Simplified Chinese 头条
Traditional Chinese 頭條
Literal meaning Headlines

Toutiao or Jinri Toutiao is a Beijing-based news and information content platform. By analyzing the features of content, users and users’ interaction with content, the company's algorithm models generate a tailored feed list of content for each user.[1]

Toutiao is one of China's largest mobile platforms of content creation, aggregation and distribution underpinned by machine learning techniques,[1][2] with 120 million daily active users as of September 2017.[3]

History[edit]

In August 2012, Beijing ByteDance Technology Co., Ltd. launched the first version of its main product Toutiao.

The content on Toutiao platform comes from different sources. At first, a large portion of content was crawled from the Internet. Now, Toutiao currently has partnerships with over 20,000 traditional media outlets, which make up 10% of its feed, and 800,000 new media content creators.[4]

In 2012 and 2013, Toutiao had two earlier rounds of funding by SIG Asia Investment and Yuri Milner.

In 2014, Sequoia Capital led its Series C funding of 100 million USD at a valuation of 500 million USD, followed by Weibo.

In 2016, Toutiao’s number of daily active users reached 78 million.[5]

As of September 2017, Toutiao has 120 million daily active users,[4] and is reported to be valued at 20 billion USD.[6]

Features[edit]

Recommendation Technology[edit]

Toutiao uses algorithms to select different content for individual users. It uses machine learning systems for personalized recommendation that surfaces content which users have not necessarily signaled preference for yet.[5]

Using Natural Language Processing and Computer Vision, Toutiao extracts entities and keywords as features from each piece of content. When a user first open the app, Toutiao makes a preliminary recommendation. Toutiao then fine-tunes its models with users' interactions with the app.[7]

Video[edit]

Toutiao launched its video channel in May 2015. Creators can upload their short videos, and the algorithm of Toutiao will recommend videos to users.

In 2016, videos on Toutiao are played 1 billion times per day, making Toutiao China's largest short video platform at the time.[8][9][10]

Q&A[edit]

In July 2016, Toutiao launched a new channel called Q&A, an open discussion community. Registered users can share their experiences and opinions in specific fields under questions and interact with other users. Toutiao will recommended answers to users in news feed and Q&A channel.

Toutiao Q&A matches questions with interested users using natural language processing and user profiling, and automatically invites them to answer certain questions.[11]

Fake news moderation[edit]

Toutiao identifies fake news by using a combination of human reviewers along with automated analysis of posts and comments.[12]

User characteristics[edit]

90% of Toutiao users are under 30 years old.[13] The average user spends 76 minutes on the site every day, resulting in 1.3 billion articles read every day.[5][14]

Creator community[edit]

In 2013, Toutiao provided a self-publishing platform to media organizations. The platform later evolved into Toutiaohao Account.

As of 2016, more than 350,000 individuals and organizations have started their Toutiaohao Accounts, including administration departments, media organizations, companies and individual writers. They publish 150,000 articles and videos on Toutiao everyday.[15]

Social good[edit]

Toutiao Alert for Missing Persons[edit]

Using location-based notification-pushing techniques, Toutiao initiated a corporate social responsibility project called “Toutiao Alert for Missing Persons”. People can send detailed information of the missing person, including last known location and time. After a verification process, Toutiao will push notification messages of missing persons to its users within the possible range of their whereabouts.

As of 2016, 700 missing persons have been recovered as a result of Toutiao’s users offering clues and notifying authority.

As of February 2017, over 1000 missing individuals have been found using this feature.[16]

Research[edit]

Toutiao's research arm, Toutiao AI Lab, was founded in March 2016 and is headed by Ma Wei-Ying.[17] Its main research areas include Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, Computer Vision and Human-Computer Interaction.[18]

Xiaomingbot, an AI powered robot writer co-developed by Toutiao Lab and Peking University, creates articles automatically. It published 450 articles over the course of the 2016 Summer Olympics.[19]

Investment and globalization[edit]

In its domestic market, Toutiao has made an investment to Imaginechina.[20]

Toutiao is entering Japan, the US, Brazil and the Southeast Asian region.[11]

In October 2016, Toutiao led India's local language app Dailyhunt's 25 million dollars in its series D funding round.[21]

Toutiao obtained a controlling stake of Indonesian local-language news app Babe in 2016.[22]

Toutiao's parent company, Bytedance owns TopBuzz in the US and Brazil.[21]

In January 2017, Toutiao acquired video creation app Flipagram for an undisclosed amount.[23][24]

After Toutiao's Series D Financing Round at the end of 2016, with investments worth 1 billion USD by Sequoia Capital, CCB International and other institutions, Toutiao is reported to be valued at more than 11 billion US dollars.[25]

Controversies[edit]

Legality of contents[edit]

On June 5th, 2014, Guangzhou Daily sued Toutiao for violating its copyright.[26] The case was settled 13 days later.[27]

On September 16th, 2014, National Copyright Administration affirms that Toutiao has violated the copyright of traditional media outlets by crawling and serving contents from its own servers, however the administration also noted that Toutiao has already deleted the relevant contents and started negotiating for a formal license.[28]

On December 29th, 2017, Cyberspace Administration of China accused Toutiao and Phoenix News of "disseminating pornographic and vulgar information, had serious issues of misguiding people, and had an evil influence on the ecosystem of online public discourse"[29], listing "reposting news in violation of regulation, clickbait, and seriously disrupting the order of information flow on the network" as its main offence.[30] In response, Toutiao halted its content update for 6 of its channels for 24 hours, shutdown its "Society" channel, banned thousands of accounts,[31] and started recruiting 2000 more censors.[32]

Privacy[edit]

Toutiao has a feature called "people you might know". In December 2017, users noticed that the feature consistently showed them their contacts, despite not giving permission to either Toutiao or WeChat to read them. When questioned, Toutiao states that it "does not possess, collect or process users' private data", and "reading users' contacts with their consent is a common practice in mobile Internet business".[33] On January 11, 2018, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology asked Toutiao to "abide by the laws and regulations, and only collect necessary personal information legally in a justified manner".[34]

Fraudulent advertisements[edit]

On March 29, 2018, CCTV-2 reported that Toutiao showed advertisements violating the Advertising Law for dubious or counterfeit products, targeting cities where regulations aren't as tight. One company, Tong Ren Tang was forced to delist its genuine products by the CFDA on December 29, 2017 due to the complaints filed by those who bought the advertised counterfeits. Tong Ren Tang stated that they have never advertised on Toutiao, and have filed complaints against such illegal advertisements with Toutiao before, however in some cases Toutiao rejected their complaints, instead responding "Why don't you advertise? If you advertise your genuine products, there won't be any counterfeits," and when requested for the identities of the advertisers, Toutiao responded "you as a company have no rights to know that".

During an interview, employees of Toutiao says that as long as one's willing to pay more advertising fee, they don't care if the product is good or not, and if the product is not certified, they'll fake one, and they'll help setup a landing page with legal content which will guide the visitor to the illegal advertisement, and find a proxy company so that when the regulators find out, they can blame the proxy.[35]

Toutiao responded on March 30 saying that the relevant advertisers and proxies have been banned from Toutiao indefnitely, and the employees have been fired. Toutiao says it will soon implement a warning when users are navigating away from contents controlled by Toutiao.[36]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The dream of Toutiao". Jie Mian. Retrieved 2015-09-06. 
  2. ^ "Toutiao to develop the Internet?". Hu Xiu. Retrieved 2015-09-08. 
  3. ^ He, Wei (2017-09-06). "Jinri Toutiao looks to BRICS nations". China Daily. Retrieved 2017-09-06. 
  4. ^ a b The News Reads You in China—and People Can’t Get Enough of It
  5. ^ a b c Wang, Alec Macfarlane and Serenitie (2017-06-12). "Toutiao: China's $11B app that wants to organize the world's information". CNNMoney. Retrieved 2017-06-27. 
  6. ^ Wang, Alec Macfarlane and Serenitie (2017-06-12). "57 startups became unicorns this year". Recode. Retrieved 2017-12-21. 
  7. ^ Review, Synced (2017-05-26). "Synced Review | 1 Day Countdown: Industry Spotlights on Global Machine Intelligence Summit 2017". Synced Review. Retrieved 2017-06-27. 
  8. ^ "Toutiao aims to allocate 1 billion yuan to improve quality of online videos". China Daily. Retrieved 2015-09-22. 
  9. ^ "Toutiao's Zhang Yiming:short video is the tuyere to next content entrepreneurship , we want All in!". SOHU. Retrieved 2015-09-22. 
  10. ^ "Zhang Yiming's second battleground for Toutiao's video". NetEase. Retrieved 2016-09-23. 
  11. ^ a b 张一鸣:今日头条会通过Build&Buy的方式在海外扩张,将推新项目“头条问答”
  12. ^ Knight, Will. "This Chinese media giant is using machine learning to go after Facebook's lunch". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 2017-06-27. 
  13. ^ "Mark Greeven: New wave of digital entrepreneurs rises in China". Nikkei Asian Review. Retrieved 2017-06-21. 
  14. ^ "Toutiao's CEO, so look at the future of the media industry". 36KR. Retrieved 2016-01-15. 
  15. ^ "4 years to win the next 74 million active users, Toutiao ready to enter the global market". 科技新报. Archived from the original on 2017-12-25. Retrieved 2016-12-08. 
  16. ^ chinanews. "头条寻人志愿者联盟在京成立 志愿者超168万(图)-中新网". www.chinanews.com. Retrieved 2017-06-28. 
  17. ^ "Toutiao touts AI for individual news in vast China market". Financial Times. Retrieved 2017-06-27. 
  18. ^ "围剿与反围剿 BAT大战今日头条_第一财经". www.yicai.com. Retrieved 2017-06-27. 
  19. ^ The Future of Writing? China’s AI Reporter Published 450 Articles During Rio Olympics
  20. ^ 今日头条宣布战略投资图库东方IC,欲抢占图片版权竞争优先权
  21. ^ a b "Tech in Asia - Connecting Asia's startup ecosystem". www.techinasia.com. Retrieved 2017-06-21. 
  22. ^ "Toutiao pockets $1 billion on the road to becoming China's next BAT". TechNode. 2017-04-07. Retrieved 2017-06-21. 
  23. ^ Chinese news reading app Toutiao acquires Flipagram
  24. ^ More Chinese will be watching Flipagram videos
  25. ^ "今日头条这次也上头条了 D轮融资估值超110亿美元". www.sohu.com. Retrieved 2017-06-28. 
  26. ^ “今日头条”因“搬运”《广州日报》稿件被诉
  27. ^ 今日头条暂时化解侵权危机:原告方撤诉
  28. ^ 国家版权局确认"今日头条"侵权:积极整改是好现象
  29. ^ China's cyber watchdog raps top news apps Toutiao, Phoenix News over vulgar content
  30. ^ 加強網管?中國今日頭條、鳳凰新聞APP遭下令整改
  31. ^ 遭網信辦約談「今日頭條」整改:關社會頻道 封禁36個自媒體帳號
  32. ^ Tencent, Toutiao hiring more censors as China increases scrutiny
  33. ^ 未经授权就私自访问用户通讯录?今日头条却这样解释
  34. ^ 涉嫌侵犯用户隐私 工信部约谈百度、支付宝、今日头条
  35. ^ "今日头条"终于上了"头条"!无视监管,竟做起这种"黑勾当"!害苦2.4亿用户
  36. ^ 今日头条回应广告违规“二跳”