FEED issue 28 Web


Words by Nicole Kobie

TikTok is the social media playground du jour, but the social app could also be big business for broadcasters

record-breaking, chart-topping single. Public health campaigns. And silly, globally viral dances. TikTok isn’t just for kids – it’s big

Say So , and Dance Monkey by Tones and I. We think that will only continue.” Alongside promises of success, there have been concerns — particularly around content moderation, censorship and data privacy. That’s exacerbated by the fact that TikTok is owned by Chinese developer ByteDance, at a time when Chinese- US relations are strained, and when concerns around Chinese surveillance via technology are being openly debated with regards to Huawei’s technologies in 5G networks. In response to criticism by US politicians last year, TikTok issued a statement stressing that all of its data is stored outside of China, and that it has never been asked to censor by that government. It’s worth noting TikTok is the version of the app available outside China, while ByteDance runs a separate app called Douyin inside the country. HOW DOES TIKTOK WORK? One of the key differences between TikTok and other social apps is the AI algorithm that suggests what users see — unlike most other social media, it doesn’t care who you’re friends with. “The details behind the algorithm are a closely guarded secret,” explains eMarketer principal analyst, Debra Aho

business now. TikTok arrived in 2018, evolving out of lip-syncing app Musical.ly after it was bought for a reported $1 billion by Chinese app maker, ByteDance. Like Vine before it, TikTok lets users post short, 15-second to one-minute looping video clips, and dance moves and lip-syncing dominate the app. The bewildering user interface, with text laid over the top of video snippets, may put off some older adults, but now only half of its 800 million active monthly users are under the age of 34. A TikTok spokesperson tells FEED : “While Gen Z have been TikTok’s early adopters, we have seen our audience gradually expand and mature over time to become extremely diverse.” Even if you’re not on the app, you’ve no doubt heard its influence: last year ’s country-rap single, Old Town Road , spent a record-breaking 19 weeks as the number-one song in the US after going viral on TikTok. “We’ve found many artists break through to the mainstream charts following going viral on TikTok,” says the spokesperson, “including Doja Cat’s song,

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