Last week, news broke that BuzzFeed (the publisher of hard-hitting news like “15 Hedgehogs With Things That Look Like Hedgehogs”) secured a partnership with ByteDance — AKA, the owner of Toutiao, the hottest media startup in China.
Under the deal, content from certain BuzzFeed verticals will now be distributed to Toutiao’s 120m+ users in Asia.
What’s ByteDance, again?
Founded in Beijing in 2012, ByteDance is best known for Toutiao, a $20B news aggregation app that seizes on China’s Facebook ban by using algorithms to “generate a tailored feed list” of news for each individual user.
The platform is immensely popular as a news source for Chinese millennials — though only about 10% of the “news” on any given feed comes from actual news outlets (the majority is sourced from 800k independent “content creators”).
ByteDance also owns TopBuzz (a US-focused app), Musical.ly (live streaming app), and Xigua (video app) — all rapidly-growing platforms in their own right.
This is big for BuzzFeed
As Axios reports, BuzzFeed already reaches 83% of millennials in the US on any given month. They’ve saturated the market, and this move allows them to expand into the world’s 2nd-largest ad market.
It’s a promising opportunity for BuzzFeed to boost their reach — especially in the wake of missing 2017 revenue targets and laying off 6% of their staff.
It’s also a leap for US media companies at large
Foreign publishers and social networks have long faced the “Great Firewall of China” — strict online regulations and censorship imposed by the Chinese government, in an effort to eliminate content that violates the country’s “socialist core values.”
Many of the platforms BuzzFeed relies on for content dissemination (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) are blocked in China, and ByteDance gives them a state-approved distribution network.
That, of course, comes with its own set of issues. Though, articles like “Leonardo DiCaprio Might Be A Human Puppy” are probably safe from censorship.