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A person holds a smartphone with Tik Tok logo displayed in this picture illustration taken November 7, 2019. Photo: Reuters

In-app revenue at TikTok and its Chinese version Douyin surges in May as short video hit tops charts

  • TikTok and its Chinese version Douyin combined racked up more than US$95.6 million in user spending in May

In-app revenue for TikTok and its Chinese version Douyin ranked first among mobile apps in the photo and video category globally in May 2020, according to data provider Sensor Tower, indicating the sustained appeal and enduring ability of the short video hit to generate money for owner ByteDance.

TikTok and its Chinese version Douyin combined racked up more than US$95.6 million in user spending in May, over 10 times the amount made in the same month a year ago, and beating YouTube and Disney+ into second and third place respectively. It should be noted that YouTube, Disney+ and many other Western apps are blocked in China.

Despite rapid overseas growth for TikTok, Chinese version Douyin still generates most of the revenue at about 89 per cent, followed by 6.2 per cent from the US and 1.2 per cent from Turkey. The popularity of the short video app in China has even seen some agencies open classes costing around US$1,400 to teach people how to become millionaires on the platform by successfully promoting their products.

TikTok is the first Chinese app to achieve a huge user base in overseas markets with more than 111.9 million combined installs in May 2020, followed by web conferencing tool Zoom, according to another report by Sensor Tower this month. TikTok and Douyin have been downloaded more than 2 billion times globally on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

TikTok, which has come under scrutiny in the US over censorship and national security issues, has taken a number of steps in the US to build trust with users and politicians, including opening a Transparency Center in Los Angeles. It also revealed last week how it recommends personalised videos for users – The For You feed.

Recommendations are based on a number of factors, such as user interaction – like following an account or posting a comment – and a “strong indicator of interest”, such as whether a user finishes watching a longer video from beginning to end. The latter would receive a greater weight than a weaker indicator, such as whether the video's viewer and creator were both located in the same country, said TikTok in a blog post.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: TikTok and Douyin lead in in-app revenue