Cheetah Mobile plans further pivot towards content

Company acquired US-based news aggregator News Republic for US$57 million in August, and more acquisitions planned

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 November, 2016, 5:50pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 3:42pm

Cheetah Mobile, one of China’s leading utility app and mobile games developers, already has more than 600 million users using its utility apps.

And now chief technology officer Charles Fan says he has a target for the same number overseas using its artificial intelligence technology, as it pivots into becoming a content provider too.

Cheetah acquired US-based news aggregator News Republic for US$57 million in August, and Fan said he expects more content acquisitions to follow.

Cheetah’s aim, he said, is to make the internet and mobile experience speedier, simpler, and safer for users.

“We noticed that one of the new user experiences pioneered in China is … apps for intelligent AI-based news aggregations, meaning it collects information from various sources. There isn’t really an equivalent in the US yet,” said Fan, referring to Chinese news aggregation app Jinri Toutiao, which translates to “Today’s Headlines”.

News Republic was originally a subscription-based news aggregator that allowed users to subscribe to news, based on topics and publishers, but Cheetah’s approach is different.

It applies machine learning algorithms to the customer, based on a trove of user data collected from its popular utility apps such as Clean Master and Battery Saver.

Through big data and machine learning, Cheetah is betting that it will be able to predict the type of content users want to consume better than the users themselves.

“On average, we turn on our phones 100 times a day, and each engagement with our smartphones tends to be shorter,” Fan said.

“Users are also less likely to know what they are looking for [when browsing] on a mobile device.”

Fan added that while most news apps would tend to push articles that drive the most traffic, personalisation allows users to have a better experience as AI helps to ensure that each user has their own personal version of a newspaper.

According to Fan, News Republic currently has over eight million monthly users and is seeing an increase in the time spent on the app as well as an uptick in retention rates, although he declined to provide more specific numbers.

Content is a huge opportunity, and there is a massive market in this age, for getting information to people
Charles Fan, chief technology officer, Cheetah Mobile

“Content is a huge opportunity, and there is a massive market in this age, for getting information to people,” Fan said, adding that the company decided to shift towards to content as competition in the utility app landscape grew fiercer in recent years.

“Given our user base and the data we have collected, it became natural for us to expand into content.”

The company also wants to persuade its millions of users to consume news content when using its other utility apps.

In apps such as Clean Master, Cheetah has included a news tab so that users who are cleaning out junk files on their phone can simultaneously explore and discover content.

In its CM Security app, users are also presented with a personalised news feed upon opening the company’s secure browser.

The idea is that valuable content can help increase engagement rates, which in turn translates into greater monetisation for the company.

Cheetah makes money through pushing out ads on its utility apps and now News Republic.

Over 80 per cent of Cheetah’s users are outside of China. For News Republic, Fan said that the company is still planning to focus its efforts on US users, before moving on to the rest of the world.