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Read this: The unstoppable rise of TikTok

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The unstoppable rise of TikTok…

BBC sounds music Radio podcasts, hi I'm and this is the media show from BBC Radio 4 hello in the world of tiktok, if you don't know what it is.

Well, where have you been? It has more than 800 million users worldwide including 40 million in the UK and the rest of the media take a note Hollywood Studios are casting tiktok.

Cos record labels are snapping up tiktok singers Facebook and YouTube have jumped on the short form bandwagon with features that looks strikingly similar but tiktok is not without it's critics.

They say it's been used to spread this information and violent content remember how the trump administration acoustic top of spying on behalf Chinese government so today.

I am trying to understand how this new come on the Block has endeared itself to millions, but provoke such fear in others.

Let me introduce you to my

Richard Waterworth is tiktok spots in Europe before that he worked at ITV and that YouTube Rich hello, what is the big trend in UK tiktok today? Is it the euro's maybe the new series of love Island tela Stella team that has been incredibly popular on tiktok today.

I tell you it's messing around in a pool with inflatable unicorn that I think it's you an idea of just how brilliant and it's wonderful to see that that's been a big thing today.


I also mention love Island so you're all evolved Bosses at ITV have just announced a deal that will let viewers buy things they see on the program directly the TV remote control and other items from an on-screen list that changes as different competitors appear, so is this kind of merging of entertainment and shopping.

Think that tiktok knows all about should we be fearful of advertising by stealth embrace it a few I know what you're going to say.

I haven't had seen that announcement, but it's really a trend across media and then see there's a lot in magazines and the media where's huge amount of Commerce going on through through those brands and it's certainly something that I think it's very very interesting and popular online with huge e-commerce brands like a source which is a big client of tiktok really understanding the producing great content is a great way to support a retail business e-commerce business.

I think the connection between content and Commerce is an awful.

Lot of technology companies for you to keep on top of how much of your day is spent legitimately scrolling through tiktok legitimately a very interesting.

Can I spend more time and I'll ever care to admit it's so compulsive it's so easy to lose 45 minutes you waiting for a train is passing time at breaks in between love Island the greatest it is very compulsive disorder that movement that helped to popularize that single gesture and you just find yourself doing it again and again you find yourself immersed into of sentence friends and of course the algorithm is good the more kind of video to watch in a certain sub-genre whereabouts comedy whether that is love Island whether you've been following the England team the more kind of videos it's going to present back to you learn some sort of Grace from your interest so I find myself presenter with more and more love Island memes.

It's deliberately Moorish well last but not least legal in China for the Wall Street Journal train leave from Singapore where it is very late at night.

Thank you very much for coming on.

I know you had a very busy New Year's Day what were you reporting on today?

There is a different large Chinese take company in cold DD2 some trouble with the Chinese internet today was like a mad Scramble trying to figure out how because it's on your investigation now so today with scrambled trying to figure out how the investigation with her tits business.

Ok, so we're providing some some variety for you, but so back of the how helpful was the pandemic in Heinz turbocharging your user base.

Well, so tiktokers is coming up for 3-years.

You're really strong throughout a true.


We were astonished.

You know when we went into lockdown in many countries including the UK last year astonished to see how families took 2 hours away of connecting and having some fun and I think maybe some people will remember the blinding lights dance trends, which which took over TiK ToK in around about last year.

It was a huge going about 4 we also saw nurses and doctors on the front line battling supporting patients taking part in TiK ToK challenge as a way of having a bit of relief from the pressures of that situation.

So you know it's really in a bit an extraordinary year and

Has been has been growing and we hope you enjoy and an ability to express themselves creatively.

That's what we been able to do nurses and doctors dancing to a lot of listeners, who might not know what tick tock is my think it's purely you know people dancing mainly teenagers lip-syncing along another teenagers.

What time it? Is.

Is that is that what tiktok is all about singing and dancing is a incredible explosions in categories like learning content over the last year which has been a huge growth area food and cookery has been enormous hunting area with seen the 20th and 1st of pasta trend these things are really I think you've become huge parts of things.

Content is spelling of whole range of categories music is always been a huge part of the tiktok.

That's something we see going from strength to strength.

Just just year in the UK have been three major number one single switch which have been debuted and discovered by tiktok, so I probably people have heard of Nathan or seen the weather man and the Sea Shanty just very recently Ed Sheeran came back into the industry and debuts play the first the first time you played this new single bad habits played live that was on a tiktok livestream, which one are globally and over 5 1/2 million people saw that so we're seeing incredibly broad range of famous.

Does it make you?

Really talking about here because the algorithm works can it's not always terribly ok.

You don't really you don't understand why x clips take off at and others don't quite often.

It's very common to come across videos with the caption.

So please please don't let this flop.

That's because users wanted to get on the foryou page to send the tiktok homepage which is the best chance of racking up those views of hundreds of thousands of views is some sort of metric that any sort of average tiktok user in the UK would be incredibly happy with that.

They can easily reach millions and millions of people depending on what it is.

How it really sort of captures the kind of Zeitgeist the People's interest any given time sometimes it doesn't seem to be arriving rhyme and reason behind something really takes off other times.

It's fairly obvious is linked with is linked to us particular meme kind of world politics or a lot of stuff related to Matt Hancock going around last few weeks tiktok was very very creative.

Funds of intimate sense that the videos can engender is it's really unique in that sense and that's why we're seeing all the other tech companies racing too kind of replicate that sense of intimacy in phone legally know we're talking about you know people have gone big on tiktok in in the Western world, but bytedance tiktok also have a Chinese version but I'm attempt to pronounce the green light yet.

Yeah, that's that's a really good point this is described functions by China Rules in China just like to talk.

Play by the government censorship and filtering rules so the content being is a little bit different from what you see on and this is particularly when you get close to politically sensitive occasions or government event of the year anniversary and that's a huge deal in China you know it's it's one of those days where celebrations and when you opened and your flipping through the for you page is very very similar to the tiktok for you page you're gonna inevitably flip onto a Chinese state media video for example of a Party member or a politician speaking about how proud he is of China that makes.

Phone it's you not go go sister or Google cousin.

However you want to put it is very different from the tiktok for everyone else has seen around the rest of the world.

Yeah, let's let's talk about the most famous feature of tiktok because it no it's infamously short it starts off originally at 15 seconds now you up to 60 seconds and you've now up the video leads to 3 minutes.

Why abandon your USP well, so we're constantly at testing different beaches what tiktok is all about is allowing people to express themselves creatively so we have a whole series of tools and effects reality yes music and sounds and video length.

Is is one of the parameters that people creator creator and so we constantly developing matchsticks.

We looked and worked with raisins and what would it look like for you to be able to create videos over and over and

Songs from greatest incredible really excited about having that opportunity just in some cases if you're doing a cookery tutorial you might want a little bit more time to be able to if you are telling the story might be comedians with sketch comedy as sometimes people are other storytelling some of those really benefit from having my favourite longer videos that is a greater call Taylor Cassidy produce the brilliant video about spies in the American Revolution using green screen and it just eating I just having having that allows that grated to go into a bit more detail into what is an amazing in staracle.

So so that's what it's all about.

This is how can we enable users increases to be great?

What do you make of that because we've had content creators on the media show before tell us they prefer TiK ToK to YouTube precisely because tiktok videos are so much easier to make you know 3-minute film is a huge.

You've got scripting.

You got a whole lot more editing to do is it a visit a dad move? What do you think it's an interesting on identifying shorter form is USB it's calling card that sort of slightly rough and ready nature is shot on iPhone front facing camera.

Not always most flattering angle, but I kind of plays into the substance of fun and that intimacy I should have mentioned earlier, but at the same time.

I imagine it's highlighted.

Are we going to be certain creative people who are dedicated to tiktok who will welcome just a chance to do things in a longer way that what's a lot of with arts and crafts creating content on tiktok and the way that it's shot.

It's a very beautiful son of close-ups and the whole point is that you stay until the end?

To see what it looks like.

It's hot so close.

He want to see the finished result and you know it works quite well.

It could be even better with sort of 3 minutes depending on the size of the project.

There are some people always favour the shortest of format but also the flexibility of being able to shoot it for longer.

I think that makes sense cos it's sort of widens to the kind of videos that you can shoot on tiktok and a little bit more closely with YouTube but still maintains what makes it so compelling and that's exactly what Instagram wants to replicate essentially YouTube launched their tiktok rival in the UK weeks ago you and yet here you are rich extending your time to know that's the ironic thing you start off at 15 seconds and you get longer.

They will Getting Shorter are you trying to become YouTube faster than you become you I think one of things.

I was just going to say it's also were saying that live streaming in livestream on tiktok and have been able to for over a year now and you can.

It's not a time limit and we used to give me some examples about the Ed Sheeran live.

He did a 60-minute 2-weeks ago.

We usually we see at the other end of the musical scary Street buskers in towns and cities all around the UK going lies and singing you know not only 200 people who are passing by but 2000 so I think they're just different formats for different expressions and that's really that's really good Focus first-class influence on other parts of the media research released by Ofcom a few months ago found out that tiktok the audience in the UK briefing something like 3 million.

March last year to 14mm just 12 months later that means that roughly out of everybody in the UK that has a social media profile about 21% one in five people have picked up, but that's crazy sort of Reach and that influence that is exercising that you mentioned should have like the charts.

That music is being propelled play tick tock people picking up like Lil NAS x Old Town Road was a smash hit because of tiktok initially didn't do that well, but people do pick up they come to it.

Look for new trends, and then that created in a way that YouTube sort of help to pioneers of elevate the kind of like what would have traditionally been a blogger sort of pivoted to blogging so it'll be more about video it changes the median and tiktok forces people to be creative in a more concise way that we talking about in terms of shorter formats also the longer one can pay into that.

I think it's just so interested and sort of grabs especially younger people's attention so much because they're like the family.

You can just flick through you don't you're not presented with a grid of videos and you have to choose it's presented to you algorithmically tailored to you based on your interests and that's either little bit creepy or incredibly useful depending on how you look at it.

Maybe they're both but there's also film studios looking now at potential casting of actors on the on on tiktok.

That is a great example of how influential it can be if the entire Industries which traditional ways of reducing the stuff that millions billions of people around the world, so they are looking to this app specifically to see what is what is holding people's interests and it really is driven by younger users as well traditional mostly under 24 years of age.

So you we are you know that respect was singing massive shift in what this?

Studios and record labels etc are putting out because it's more direct with metric way of measuring what younger people who are very very very lucrative and desirable demographic stuff into are interested in and that is invaluable to these companies so huge growth in tiktok then, but let's Delve deep into the business side of all of this liesl in China take for the Wall Street Journal we said TiK ToK had a strong here, but what has that meant for bytedance its parent company.

Can you give us a sense of scale involved here?

I think you are mute Lisa

we've got you now.

I think so before I go into the centre of scale.

I think it might be useful to just give a bit of a primer on by itself by dancers Chinese tech unicorn.

That's possibly one of the most valuable and privately-held companies in the world and to give you a sense of scale last funding round.

It was valued at $180 which is quite an amazing amount if you think about uber uber pre IPO in 2019 was 75 billion so about dances effectively twice of that right now.

It's not even listed for a very big crowd at producing these fun and addictive that's about it.

Today's headlines which is a news aggregator as well such as e-commerce and gaming so are very lucrative areas but to give you a sense of how much by dance as a parent company made last year they made in revenue 34b US dollars and out of that it was like 19 million of profit and how much tiktok.

I don't actually didn't break down the numbers so I am but I can tell you that tiktoks definitely when you know we spoke about how many users in the UK right now in the USA for couple million, so you can imagine that there a very lucrative in a very attractive advertises, let's go let's go to which I mean Richard tiktok videos are almost all user-generated so people are making them for free though uploading them.

I mentioned at the start of the show how successful you've been at kind of blurring the line entertainment and shopping but when you break it down.

How does tiktok make money we work with major brands and growing large number of small and medium-sized businesses and they can advertise and we have a different apple.

Within the more you feed which is the main the main source but not the only one so that's that's the main business and what about the Daisy do you say that because that is a big criticism tech companies in a you give us a free product but in return your Gathering huge amounts of data on this and use that to make money.

So you know we really working for you the thing that advertises really value about TiK ToK is that you can very easily.

See you know what people are interested in because people are posting responding to consent with specific specific music specific consent beans clear.

You know.

What what you know what kind of audience what can a community you're talking to him one of the really popular things that happened since like to do is to Great their own sponsored #challenges so beats.

Re-advertise it can convert clearly defined like this is the content of the audience that say yes, you are selling update then, but we are working with advertisers, so that they can communicate to using sub tiktok and that's very kind of normal online advertising ok, but what about tiktok create event for the the people who make the actual videos I'm presuming that the majority of them actually make very very little money in that you are property of their endeavours.

What what do you say to that?

What's a tiktok? We absolutely loved our created and we are very lucky that they loved it up making money for creators is extremely important.

It's not the only important thing, so it's very important for creightons to to be able to express themselves and tools find audience but making money is important and so we provide services.

They can do that.

So one of those is the creator marketplace so that is a face to be a matchmaking to wear created can sign up to that and Branscombe Branscombe come in and say I want to do a campaign on tiktok and through the Creator marketplace.

Grace's will be selected to be part of that that advertising campaign with the Brat and they will be paid a visit for most most creators on on your on your platform because you know it does Alma sound slightly like indentured labour can can you imagine if I didn't need to pay for love Island or any other.

Yeah, they can still sell the advertising around them.

We have series of to make very good money from we also launched a program last year with the greater fund which was a Commitments three-year commitment and 300 million billion dollars globally which was which is paying money to creators on the basis of their of the success of their content on tiktok, so so those are two big programs now.

We're continually working on a lot of other programs to enable creators to monetize their activities such a wee-wee.

You know that's really important thing for greatest.

It's really important thing for us to continue to focus on and how how do you monitor then, how do you monitor what's going on in tiktok because you're presumably almost every single person in the world can upload a video to tiktok.

Wanted to know if they were able to how do you monitor what's in them so we have we have a trust and safety team over 10000 people globally and very sophisticated technology that team headed by in Dublin where is that combination of technology and human reviewers that allows us to moderates and ensure that any content that violates guidelines for community guidelines on what is and is not allowed transparent clear and what they are and any content that violates community guidelines, is is removed from so that's that's the process moderation policy.

I mean the content is essentially censored there.

We mentioned that pipe dance run the parallel version of tiktok.

Do the big Silicon Valley Giants operate there?

You know most of them don't describe the trade-off for Western companies this way, you know if social media and tech company if you want to if you want to operate in China then you have to operate by Chinese rules and that means content filtering of political events in O2 events sensitive to the Chinese incident in the 1980s or to our content involving sing young which is a western region of China which is really can I park headlines recently because the US says genocide is happening there, so you're not in order to play in order to operate in China you have to play by these rules at some point in the past Google or Facebook and Twitter have decided.

They are not going to say by these rules and that's why they're out so ineffective created a bit of what I

Internet so for example time in Singapore right now, but when I used to be based in Shanghai and I was there for 7 years in order to go on Google or two YouTuber Facebook or Instagram I would have to have certain software on my phone that would allow me to jump the great Chinese firewall in order to accept that so basically you have two different internet you got systems with two separate sets of taps for very similar applications about tiktok that he found it in America I'm actually came into a practice that would make people like you very nervous with governments in the US and around the world constantly something we doing very happy to engage constructively transparently with Government address any concerns so that's normal.

You very much.

Thank you very much.

That's it for today.

Thanks for all my guests Richard Waterworth TiK ToK general managing you at legal in China tech reporter of the Wall Street Journal Rhiannon Williams technology correspondent for the BBC sounds music Radio podcasts.

Transcriptions done by Google Cloud Platform.

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