🔒 TikTok is bossing it! The app commands the time and attention of the most influencable demographic in society (young people). It also happens to be a Chinese tech company, raising huge questions and concerns about influence from the CCP over this cohort.
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Instagram Struggles Against TikTok
The Wall Street Journal has reported a leaked internal study from Meta FaceBook into the creator economy.
- The report concluded that Instagram's Reels lags far behind TikTok in both popularity and engagement.
Here's the thing: When it comes to the younger demographics, TikTok is bossing it! The app has gotten into the heads of the most influenceable generation and nobody knows what it's doing to them.
Given TikTok is a Chinese tech firm and most likely under the influence and control of the Chinese Communist Party, who knows what is going on behind the scenes to decide what content a TikTok user gets to see.
TikTok's domination of the attention economy is as scary as it is awesome:
- Under-18s are spending more time on TikTok than on every other streaming platform combined!
- US users spend an average 26 hours per month on TikTok..that’s equivalent to 36 working days a year scrolling through videos…4 years ago that was only 8 hours a month.
- The app is reported to have around 1.6 billion monthly users, that's more than Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn combined. (These are not publicly reported figures and there's much speculation that TikTok owner Bytedance down-plays the actual usage numbers.)
- When compared to Instagram alone, TikTok users are watching 197.8 million hours a day compared to only 17.6 million hours on Reels. (That's over 11x more time on TikTok than on Instagram!)
The issue is partly the addictive dynamics of TikTok (read this), and partly because less than 20% of the creators on Instagram post anything each month.
And a third of that is not original content, it's video clips from other platforms and shows. Meaning there's a lack of original and engaging content.
This is not what Mark Zuckerberg wanted to see with the business in decline, with user numbers, revenue, and the share price all heading south.
Meta have invested heavily on switching Instagram from a photo to a video platforms, against the wishes of a large cohort of loyal Insta users.
- They changed the algorithm. It's called “Panavision” and copies how TikTok serves up content based on virality instead of friendship.
- They've started a $1 billion creator fund (to pay a select group of influencers for content).
TikTok's Addictive Qualities
The science behind TikTok's addictive qualities can be condensed into these three attributes:
- TikTok knows exactly what you like and want to watch better than anyone, even your partner.
- TikTok has removed all decision-making. Open the app and away you go, no spending time deciding what to watch, the app already knows what you want.
- TikTok applies "random reinforcement" to keep you addicted and online for longer than on any other app.
This Wall Street Journal investigation demonstrated how TikTok relies heavily on the amount of time users spend watching each video to steer them toward more videos that will keep them scrolling.
It is this reliance on addictive behaviours driven by automated technology that is the a cause for concern with TikTok, especialyl given its appeal to a young demographic.
Both the WSJ and NYT showed that the app can lead young viewers down dangerous rabbit holes in particular toward content that promotes suicide or self-harm, problems that TikTok says it’s working to stop by aggressively deleting content that violates its terms of service.
The Anti-TikTok Narrative
In Issue #327 of That Was The Week, Keith Teare wrote this about the Anti-TikTok narrative:
Facebook, as reported in the Washington Post, has paid GOP firm Targetted Victory to create a concerted media campaign against its competitor.
Employees with the firm, Targeted Victory, worked to undermine TikTok through a nationwide media and lobbying campaign portraying the fast-growing app, owned by the Beijing-based company ByteDance,as a danger to American children and society, according to internal emails shared with The Washington Post.
Reuters has a Factbox that charts the history of Facebook's attempts to undermine TikTok. The excellent publication Protocol recently focused on Facebook and TikTok where it noted that Facebook is trying (and failing) to turn Instagram into a TikTok clone.