• China was overtaken by Taiwan in terms of e-commerce penetration rate.

China was overtaken by Taiwan in terms of e-commerce penetration rate. (Photo : Reuters)

An informative report shows media apps making the same appeal to consumers as instant messaging apps like WeChat and QQ.

Crowded Beijing offices of Toutiao.com, a mobile app for news, are a daily scene as all employees constantly update the famous app real-time. The app features headline news, sports news, show business and social media issues.

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With 290 million registered users and 27 million avid readers daily, Toutiao has seen greater achievements since its launch in 2012. Last year, the firm received an investment of $100 million from Sequoia Capital, which is run by the well-known Chinese investor Shen Nanpeng, and Weibo, the New York-listed social platform similar to Twitter.

"With mobile phones, people can read the latest news in a more efficient way," Zhang Yiming, Toutiao.com's founder and head of the app's mother company, Beijing Bytedance Technology Co. Ltd., said. "It's so much easier now."

A report released by the China Internet Network Information Center proved that news mobile apps were just a few steps behind instant messaging players, such as Tencent Holding Ltd.'s QQ and WeChat, in terms of online traffic. Based on Beijing-based CNNIC, about 77 percent of Internet consumers (over 459 million people) in China clicked onto news mobile apps by the end of June.

Despite the rapid growth in the sector, industry experts have cautioned that many of the media newbies might find it hard to keep up.

Social networking giants, such as Weibo and WeChat, are already boosting their news coverage, drawing online readers from media startups.

Internet data service provider Talking Data released a survey showing about 60-percent penetration rate of media apps among mobile Internet users, lower than CNNIC's 77 percent.

"This is a mature market and will continue to grow steadily," Talking Data's research director Tao Jingqi said. "But I don't think we will see a dramatic increase in the sector."

Li Senhe, chief executive officer of mobile news app Zaker, shared the same belief as Tao. Zaker collates content from various websites through copyright agreements and allows readers to create their own magazines based on individual preferences.

Lots of news apps have mushroomed in China, ranging from those released by renowned newspaper and magazine companies to Web portals and media providers like Toutiao and Zaker.

News app leader Tencent, through its own dedicated website, Tencent News, has started moving into the trend of customized news feeds.

Having 250 million active readers daily, the firm plans to do a major overhaul of its service.

"Personalizing our content will be an important part of the apps development," Tencent.com's editor-in-chief Wang Yongzhi said.

Each news app company must be able to differentiate itself in order to survive in the rapidly expanding market. Toutiao and Zaker are already moving in this direction of finding their niche market.

Using big data and analysis, Toutiao first analyzes all news content, labels it, and sorts it by keywords, according to Toutiao vice president Lin.

"Then we analyze our users and match the content to their tastes," Lin added.

Customized advertising should then be easier, allowing firms to match the right brands with the right consumer, Wang Shicong, an analyst at Analysys International, noted.

"The news app sector cannot live happily ever after through advertising income alone," Zaker CEO Li said. "We have to explore new models and opportunities to grow in the future. You have to stay ahead of the pack."