The app is one of the leading forces in China's second wave of tech development after Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.

Most people outside China can be excused for having never heard of Toutiao. But at the end of 2017 the app already boasted 120 million daily active users; a number growing by the day. As such, it is seen as one of the most exciting prospects for companies looking to build a digital presence in China.

The company’s full name, Jinri Toutiao—meaning ‘Today’s Headlines’—gives a fairly clear indication of what the service provides and in the simplest sense of the term, Toutiao is a news content app. However very little of what gets pushed to users of the platform is actually created by Toutiao. Instead, the app compiles news content from third party agencies and platforms and uses algorithms and an artificial intelligence-powered system to send highly targeted content to individual members.

In addition to the highly sophisticated digital system that sorts content and drives the app,Toutiao employs a growing number of human auditors, or reviewers, to quality check the content passing through the site; with each reviewing about 1,000 news stories a day.

The company, considered one of the leading forces in China’s second wave of tech development after Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, is reportedly eyeing an IPO in the US that will place its valuation at $30bn. This is despite only being founded in 2012 by Beijing-based Bytedance Technology.

A content oriented app

Content is at the heart of Toutiao. A combination of user preferences and behaviour funnels this content to relevant audiences, meaning every user’s feed is unique. It is dependent on general information like their location, age, interests, and gender, but also more specific information such as their phone provider, the weather, and the time of day.

Since criticisms surfaced that Toutiao was using third party content without permission from the original producers, it has signed content sharing agreements with a number of major Chinese news outlets; including Xinhua and Caixin.

In addition to the massive flow of third party news content that goes through the app, Toutiao also features a Weibo-like service that allows users to publish their own text and media posts. In addition, a question and answer forum, similar to Quora, was launched on the platform to further diversify the user experience.

The more users interact with the various feeds, the more specific and accurate the targeted content becomes. As such, it has become an incredibly effective advertising platform for companies operating in China.

Brands can set up and verify official accounts, allowing them to produce high levels of content that can be targeted at very focused audiences. And just like WeChat and Weibo, a cooperation with an influencer can be a very effective way to promote your brand and make the most of Toutiao. For example, in their last campaign, household appliance manufacturer Dyson leveraged the platform’s potential by cooperating with a renowned influencer in the lifestyle industry with 60,000 followers. The post was viewed and commented on by more than 5,000 people.

Toutiao Ads

With continuous growth in user numbers and the development of new features, Toutiao is an increasingly attractive proposition for companies developing a digital advertising strategy in China.The platform’s advertising feature is based on a credit system; with a minimum initial investment of 10,000RMB and subsequent top ups of a minimum of 1,000RMB. With these credits companies can choose from three advertising plans:

  • Cost Per Click (CPC) – 0.8-1.0RMB/click
  • Cost Per Mille (CPM) – 10-15 RMB/thousand people
  • Cost Per Action (CPA) – average of 150RMB/action (someone who enters the ad page and completes a pre-determined action—such as signing up for a newsletter)

The specific advertising costs are subject to a number of variables, including the industrial sector and location of the company. CPC and CPA strategies are particularly attractive to companies as they provide a more accurate evaluation of a campaign’s success.


Toutiao provides a valuable service to companies operating in industries and markets where consumers require more detailed and regular information or instruction. In addition to platforms like Zhihu and WeChat Official Accounts, Toutiao offers a very effective channel of communication between brands and consumers.

To use Toutiao as an avenue for content dissemination or an advertising platform, contact Creative Union for more information and let us help you make the most out of the platform.