China’s popular news app Toutiao welcomed its new CEO at a company event over the weekend. Toutiao’s founder Zhang Yiming has passed the baton to Chen Lin, the company’s former head of product. Zhang will remain CEO of Bytedance, the operator behind Toutiao and another massively popular app, Douyin/Tik Tok.
The 6-year-old Toutiao also launched its first wave of mini-programs that will operate within the app.
This is a clear indication of the growing ambitions of Bytedance as it seeks to compete against bigger players like Tencent, which pioneered the mini-program concept on its messenger WeChat. At US$75 billion Bytedance is currently considered the most valuable private tech company in the world.
Chen’s promotion to Toutiao CEO will allow him to have overall control of the daily operations of the firm. This is of essential importance given the growing list of products the news app is offering.
Zhang’s step back from the daily operations of Toutiao will allow him more time to focus on Bytedance’s corporate strategy to navigate through potential challenges. The firm is preparing to go public at an uncertain time, following changes in the regulatory landscape and the ongoing Sino-US trade war.
Founded in 2012, Zhang first created Toutiao, a news app that uses AI algorithms and third-party providers to offer personalized content for users. Then came other new media products such as short video apps Douyin/Tik Tok, and a Quora-like Q&A platform among others, all under the Bytedance umbrella.
Data Analytics firm iResearch’s data revealed that Toutiao is China’s top news aggregator app, at more than 240 million downloads.
Editor: Nadine Freischlad