Oct 31, 2020
In episode 334, Matthew Brennan returned to discuss his new book
"Attention Factory: The Story of Tik Tok & China's ByteDance".
Matthew began with the inspiration and the key themes behind the
first English book specifically focused on ByteDance, observing the
rise of the company. He discuss the backstory of Zhang Yiming,
founder of ByteDance and how he learned from his past experiences
to build Toutiao first before embarking on Douyin that eventually
led to Tik Tok. Last but not least, Matthew debunked the common
misconceptions on Tik Tok and ByteDance, explained how their
business models work and offered a glimpse to the challenges ahead
for the company in the near future.
Here are the interesting show notes and links to the
- Matthew Brennan, Co-founder of China Channel
and author of “ (chinachannel.co, @mbrennanchina , Linkedin, Wechat:Yowdy-CQ)
the highest recurring guest on the podcast, it’s great to welcome
you back. First question: what have you been up to since our last
- “Attention Factory - The Story of Tik Tok and
China’s ByteDance” by Matthew Brennan
is the inspiration behind writing this book?
are the key themes for this book?
are the major audiences that you want to target in this
Tok and ByteDance are often characterized by Western commentators
and media as a threat to Facebook, Twitter and even to the US
government itself. What are the key misconceptions about Tik Tok
- Probably this is the first book which dives in
depth into the background of Zhang Yiming, the founder of
Bytedance, and the surprise is that he used to work for China’s
twitter clone, Fanfou (started by Wang Xing, now founder and CEO of
Meituan-Dianping) and was shut down by the authorities. Can you
elaborate more on his background and his stint as a CEO with
another startup called 99Fang before coming to ByteDance? What has
99Fang taught Zhang Yiming in the process?
he resigned from 99Fang, he started ByteDance and it was not with
Tik Tok that he started his foray. He did Toutiao, can you talk
about the design concepts and what Toutiao taught the ByteDance
can think of the success of Tik Tok in three stages: Douyin in
China, acquisition of Musical.ly and then expanding globally across
the decade of 2010 to 2020. Let’s start with Douyin first, how did
the app cross the chasm to drive users?
- Tencent has tried to challenge Douyin on the
homeground with Weishi, what did they get wrong and why have they
failed to challenge Tik Tok?
are the key business models for Tik Tok and Douyin from ByteDance?
How does the app bring revenues to the company? How are the apps
localized or globalized to ensure a better user
are different ways to look at Tik Tok. One interesting insight was
from Eugene Wei’s recent article “Tik
Tok and the Sorting Hat”, where Tik Tok does not need the social graph
but rather rely on the recommendation engine algorithm to push the
interests of the user, which makes Tik Tok a more direct competitor
to Youtube. What are your thoughts on how one should think of Tik
Tok as a mobile app or social network or video network?
- Probably, we should talk about what happened to
Tik Tok in the US this year. They have hired Kevin Mayer, former
head of Disney+ and then Donald Trump threatened to shut them down,
and first there was supposed to be an acquisition from Microsoft,
but ended up with Oracle and Walmart clinching a partnership deal.
Can you share your thoughts on what happened and where this is
likely to go before & after the US elections?
are the key challenges you see for ByteDance in the coming
you have any recommendations that have recently inspired
can our audience find you and your new book “Attention
The show is hosted and produced by Carol Yin (@CarolYujiaYin) and
originally created by Bernard Leong (@bernardleong, Linkedin). Sound
credits for the intro music: Taro Iwashiro, "The Beginning" from
Red Cliff Soundtrack.