Commentary

Toutiao Search: Much Opportunity For Marketers, Even If It Doesn't Beat Baidu

Toutiao, the news app owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, is gaining ground in the Chinese market as one of the most popular news sources. Last month, ByteDance capitalized on Toutiao’s success by launchinga new search engine, Toutiao Search. The company is positioning Toutiao Search as a direct competitor to Baidu, the technology behemoth that has dominated the search engine market in China for more than 15 years.

While most people question whether Toutiao Search could ever overtake Baidu, forward-thinking marketers and media buyers should begin to consider the opportunities that Toutiao Search presents — whether or not it comes out on top.


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Why a search engine was inevitable

 

ByteDance has already attracted a strong audience for its short videos and news articles. The company’s video app Douyin, known internationally as TikTok, announced it had reached 500 million monthly active users in just two years. To maintain its growth trajectory, ByteDance must attract more users from new channels, hence the expansion into search engines. 


ByteDance has not yet managed to overthrow ecommerce and gaming giants Alibaba and Tencent. That leaves Baidu -- which is undergoing management changes  -- as the next viable contender.

 

Tapping into a growing user base 

 

Toutiao’s emergence as one of the most popular news sources in China provides enormous opportunities for marketers and media buyers to place digital ads on its platform, which reportedly reaches more than 240 million monthly unique devices and counting.


Toutiao has focused heavily on producing its own news content. While many search engines are still struggling to find the right balance between content promotion and user experience, Toutiao’s own content can be seen as an advantage, using originality and exclusiveness to increase readership. Marketers can tap into this advantage with creative ads that help to differentiate the platform. 

 

As the platform’s user base continues to expand, marketers will have even more opportunities to reach target audiences as more user data points will allow the platform to further segment its user base.

 

The bottom line

 

Toutiao certainly faces an uphill battle in its attempt to unseat Baidu. In August 2019, Baidu controlled more than 75% of the search engine market share in China, according to Statcounter. No doubt it will continue to leverage its position as an early architect in the search ecosystem. The concept of “Baidu it” (equivalent to “Google it”) is deeply ingrained. 


That doesn’t change the fact that Toutiao, with its growing and diverse user base and proprietary content development system, offers forward-thinking marketers and media buyers an opportunity to get creative and reach a larger audience.

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