Out of 1.2 billion mobile web users in China, 70.3% of them, which is about 900 million, consumed news from mobile news apps in 2015, according to research firm TalkingData. Overall mobile news consumption in China has increased 4.6% from 2014 to 2015.
The trend of consuming news through mobile news aggregators rather than on news portal apps is on the rise. Among the top 10 mobile news apps used by Chinese consumers in December 2015, half of them were news aggregators such as Jinri Toutiao, Yidian Zixun and Flipboard. Yidian Zixun became the third most popular news app in December 2015, climbing up two spots from a year ago in the same period.
As the leading Chinese news portal, Tencent topped the chart of the most popular news apps in China last year with more than 140 million monthly active users. Jinri Toutiao, with 70 million monthly active users, and Yidian Zixun, with 15.2 million monthly active users, trail behind.
Tencent News had always been ranked the number one news app in the past. Since 2014, the news portal has added more than 100 specialized columns on topics ranging from everyday topics to celebrity news. According to industry website TechWeb, Tencent’s most popular column “Newsbro”, which has 7.17 million subscribers, uses pictures, funny images generated by the internet and witty text to tell daily stories and provide commentary.
In addition, two of Tencent’s platforms — WeChat and QQ Messenger — are also pushing users to read news from the Tencent News app. A Tencent news feed is added on most Chinese users’ WeChat accounts by default. The news feed only shows a few stories and asks users to open the Tencent News app to read more. WeChat has attracted 650 million monthly active users and QQ has 860 million monthly active users, according to Tencent’s 2015 third quarter results.
Jinri Toutiao, or Today’s Headlines, is China’s most popular content aggregation app. It collects content from different news sources and makes recommendations to users based on popularity, location and customized settings. Similar to Flipboard, users are encouraged to connect their Chinese social media accounts such as WeChat, QQ Messenger and Sina Weibo with the app, allowing it to mine even more data on users’ reading habits.
The news aggregator app was launched in August 2012. Its estimated valuation is USD 500 million after the startup completed a Series C funding round last June, according to Sohu News.
Coming in at a distant third, Yidian Zixun, which means “a bit of information” in English, is similar to Jinri Toutiao in that it allows users to personalize the news feed in the app. It also tracks users’ reading habits on Chinese social media platforms. Unlike Jinri Toutiao, Yidian Zixun has not included trending videos as a feed yet.
The app debuted about a year after Jinri Toutiao in July 2013. Yidian Zixun is owned by New York-based data processing company Particle Inc. Chinese media company Phoenix New Media granted a USD 20 million loan to Particle Inc. in late January. Phoenix New Media owns approximately 49.02% of the total outstanding shares of Particle.
With the rise of news aggregators, people are consuming less news on traditional news portals. The TalkingData report shows the usage percentage of leading news portal apps Tencent, Sohu, NetEase, Sina and iFeng on mobile devices in December 2015 have declined compared to the same period a year ago. Tencent is down 1.7%, NetEase is down 0.2% and Sohu News is down 1.9% compared to a year ago.
The report concludes that news consumption in China is fragmented due to news portal mobile apps, content aggregator apps, social media and web browsing. In terms of news consumption preferences, the report says users look for these attributes: personalized, easy to read, topical and timely.