Saturday, 2023 September 30

Daily Digest | China’s ‘attention factory’ branches out

Hi. It’s Brady.

There are many ways to describe ByteDance, the company behind TikTok and apps that are popular—very popular—only within China. It’s often called an app factory; by our count, the company has built more than 140 apps in less than a decade. It’s also labeled as an attention factory, which is apt given how sticky its entertainment platforms are.

Ultimately, ByteDance is giving new meaning to the expression “time is money.” To be more specific, your time becomes its money. And the company intends to give you even more ways to sink your concentration into content that it owns or hosts.

To do this, ByteDance has made a series of investments in the entertainment industry, with its latest involving Alibaba’s film division. It’s ambitious, but also a necessary move. There are limits to which apps like TikTok, Douyin, and news aggregator Toutiao can rake in dollars and yuan, and the reliance on ad revenue is shaky if user growth is slowing. Branching out into other industries, like education, healthcare, and of course entertainment, is crucial for ByteDance’s financial future.

From the small screen in your palm to the TV in your living room, ByteDance is ensuring your eyeballs are glued to images that generate money for the company. It isn’t a stretch to say the company is about to evolve in ways that will make it an even more influential entity in shaping how we spend our time.

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