Toutiao Strikes Licensing Deal with BuzzFeed, Paving Its Way for Global Expansion

Through the licensing deal, Toutiao is to introduce BuzzFeed content to its hundreds of millions of users.

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Toutiao Strikes Licensing Deal with BuzzFeed, Paving Its Way for Global Expansion

China’s tech giant Bytedance, the maker behind popular Toutiao app, has inked a partnership with BuzzFeed to distribute the latter’s content to its users in China, Japan and other parts of the world.

Founded in 2012, Bytedance has over 200 million daily active users across its apps including flagship news aggregator Toutiao, TopBuzz – an overseas version of Toutiao, and Xigua which is one of the most popular short video apps in China.

The deal paves the way for the cross-border expansion of the two media outlets. For Bytedance, its global product TopBuzz will leverage BuzzFeed content to further its international reach, especially in North America, Japan, and Brazil where its user base is growing. Launched in 2015, TopBuzz is an algorithm-driven content recommendation app that delivers trending articles, videos, breaking news, etc.

For its U.S. counterpart, the deal is BuzzFeed’s first foray into testing its content in China and will help the company gain an insight into Chinese readers’ taste. Bytedance users will have access to some of BuzzFeed’s most popular franchises including the recipe brand Tasty, DIY brand Nifty and other sub-units such as Goodfull, Bring Me and Top Knot.

“This is the first step,” Scott Lamb, BuzzFeed’s vice president of international, said in an interview. “Operating as an international media company in China is complicated. We don’t know a lot about it.”

The China-US partnership in the digital news industry is not the first one of its kind. In 2014, Tencent struck deals with Business Insider and Recode to publish their content in China in Chinese translation.

Bytedance is valued at as much as USD 30 billion mostly thanks to its growing popularity among users. Its AI-driven news aggregator Toutiao claims to have 140 million daily active users who spend on average 76 minutes daily on the platform. TopBuzz, at the same time, is also performing well as it’s currently the number 2 news app in the iOS App Store in the U.S.

Meanwhile, BuzzFeed has missed its revenue targets in 2017 which leads to a 6% layoff. The deal with Bytedance is likely to help it tap into a new market, but it’s also possible that the company is handing over its content to a potential competitor.