As smartphones have become increasingly widespread, phone cameras have improved, and the internet has gotten faster, video has entered a period of rapid development in recent years. Videos can be generally divided into three categories: short video (anywhere from seconds to minutes long), video programs (tens of minutes long) and live streaming (length varies).
The battle between video apps to attract registered members by buying copyrights, filming web series and producing variety shows is just heating up. When Xiaokaxiu and Faceu videos became popular on WeChat Moments, many people said that short video was again on the rise. However, 2016 has already been recognized as the first year of the live-streaming era, as short video has been eclipsed by live-streaming apps. Now we are in late 2016, and competition in the live-streaming market has reached a fever pitch. Live-streaming app leader Inke added a social short video function, while QQ has also developed a “riji” short video social feature as it goes all out to market Now Live. So the question is: Can short video apps push back?
I. Current State of Short Video Apps: Chinese Short Video App Rankings (Incomplete)
Short video features have penetrated a variety of apps. Cheetah Global Lab has compiled an incomplete ranking of short video apps.
In terms of rankings, short video apps are currently divided into two camps.
The first type is social short video apps with tools.
Tool-based social short video apps, as represented by Kwai, Meipai and Faceu, are characterized by user-generated content (UGC), as everyone has the ability to distribute video. They are comprehensive apps for creating, editing, beautifying and publishing short videos. They were also the first types of short video apps to emerge. The short videos created with these apps are often shared on communication platforms like WeChat and QQ, and social platforms such as Moments, Qzone and Weibo. These kind of apps are also expanding their own social networking features.
The second type is short video apps featuring content recommendations. TouTiao Video is a typical short video app offering professionally-generated content (PGC) and content recommendation features.
II. Typical China Short Video Apps: Different Paths to Success
Kwai: Taking the Road Least Traveled and Encircling Cities from Rural Areas
Short video got its start in 2013. After Twitter’s Vine app gained in popularity, Chinese developers also began to venture into the market. Meipai, developed by Meitu Inc., rose this wave of popularity and briefly dominated the market. But in 2015, Kwai, which began as a GIF generation app, took the first spot in the Photo app category while Meipai slipped to number four.
In terms of weekly app openings, Kwai has been far ahead of Weibo.
Recipe for Success: Curiosities and Videos of Stuff You Don’t Dare to Do
When it comes to the success of Kwai, it was controversially discussed in an article, “Stories of Cruelty in the Underclass: A Video App in China’s Rural Areas.” Kwai has an absolute advantage in third-, fourth- and fifth-tier cities, where curiosities, self-torture and candidly shot videos are not uncommon. Meanwhile, Kwai has produced several popular internet stars. MC GodBless, a popular rap artist who first showed on Kwai and was later poached by YY, now has a strong following on Weibo and has appeared on mainstream variety shows such as Day Day Up.
Monetization represents the biggest challenge for the platform.
Meipai: Dominant Female User Base and Fan Economy
Meipai features video filters and allows users to create artistic videos to share with others. Meipai is the fastest-growing social video app with a user base of 100 million, according to Meitu, its parent company.
Meipai’s Recipe for Success: Came Up at the Right Time and Seized the Young User Segment
Females are dominant among Meipai users, according to libra’s user profiles. In age distribution, the majority of Meipai users are young people.
Li Yan’s short video on Meipai caused a stir
Li Yan, the nine-year-old daughter of Faye Wong and Li Yapeng, posted a viral video on Meipai in the second half of 2015 showing the inside of Wong’s mansion and her massive cosmetics collection, which helped turn Meipai into a hot-button topic again. In the recent live-streaming boom, Meipai is one of the most popular apps to shift strongly towards live streaming . Looking back at the development history of Meipai, it has responded to each change in the market quickly and deliberately.
TouTiao Video: Extends Personalized Recommendation Technology to the Video
Building on the popularity of personalized news recommendation platform TouTiao.com, TouTiao Video reached number two in the short video category, number nine in the video category and number 69 overall just two months after being released in late July.
To obtain such good results in such a short amount of time, the contribution of traffic redirected from TouTiao.com cannot be overstated. TouTiao.com can also provide TouTiao Video with user data, personalized recommendation algorithms, content producers and ad buyers on the back end. To attract even more excellent content, TouTiao.com recently announced that it will invest 1 billion RMB to support video creation over the next year. Based on these favorable conditions, the development prospects of TouTiao Video remain high.
III. Future of Short Video Apps: More Live-Streaming and Short Video to be Integrated into a Single App
While everyone expected a favorable year for short video in 2016, what we have actually experienced is a fierce battle amongst live streaming apps, while short video apps have begun to embed live-streaming functions of their own. However, as the live streaming war enters a new stage, an interesting thing has happened: live streaming apps are adding short video functionality. Essentially, they have become the same type of apps.
Cheetah Global Lab summarized the strength and weakness of live streaming and short video.
As seen in the above table, short video has advantages in most dimensions.
In addition to both being video media, the ties between live-streaming apps and short video run deep, as they can share performers censorship technology and users. Approximately a half of Inke and YY users are also Kwai users, according to libra data.
Cheetah Global Lab App Overlap Rankings
Such overlaps indicate that live-streaming app users also enjoy watching short video, so Inke’s shift toward short video development is a wise choice. A growing number of live-streaming apps will possibly get engaged in the short video sector in the future.
Both social live streaming and social short video are ultimately about “social.” Currently only a handful of apps can really build social relationships, including WeChat, QQ and Weibo. They can also provide short video functions and serve as entry points to watch short video. To grow in the shadow of giants, it is essential to focus on one’s strengths then develop into other fields.
IV. Short Video Has Unlimited Monetization Potential
Compared with live streaming, short video is characterized by short duration, focused content, high long-tail effect, low repetition rate, precision placement which leaves offers numerous options from a profit model perspective.
1. Internet Celebrity Economy: Pre-Movie Ads + Product Placement + e-Commerce Traffic Redirecting + Tipping + Paid Membership
Take Papi, a Chinese comedian known for her video blogs, as an example. Her Weibo account features two kinds of ads: short spoken ads before the start and ends of her videos and product placements within the videos themselves. During China’s Singles Day shopping holiday on November 11th, Papi did a live streaming event on Tmall which she promoted in advance via short video.
Internet celebrities acting as e-commerce shopping guides is also an important income source. On the one hand, internet celebrities can advertise the clothes and cosmetics they are wearing, while on the other hand, they can leverage their stardom to redirect traffic to Taobao and WeChat stores.
Tipping, the most popular form of monetization on live streaming platforms, can also be a way for short video content to be converted into cash. Many apps including Weibo, Miaopai and TouTiao have added tipping functions.
Paid membership models have just recently begun to flourish on video websites. In general, video websites buy copyrights then provide content to users who buy memberships. Video websites could also learn from overseas video websites by implement paid subscriptions in a certain category or offer pay-per-views of a single video.
2. Weibo: Sharing the Income with Internet Celebrities + News Feed Ads
Weibo has seen its share price steadily rise since implementing its short video and live-streaming strategy, even surpassing Twitter to become the largest social media company by market value. Despite employing an advertising model that has been widely criticized by users, at present there is no alternative to Weibo.
As Weibo is currently the best platform for fan economy, public figures all choose to open accounts there. Internet celebrities who want to make their published content accessible to as many fans as possible, they must purchase “Fans Headline,” a promoted feed that Sina guarantees will appear at the top of the information feeds of their followers.
When celebrities don’t have their own ads to place, they can transfer their traffic to Weibo, which then uses an algorithm to place its own ads and shares the revenue with the celebrity. This model is often applied on video websites and overseas social media.
In terms of short video, Weibo launched a service that shows video ads in news feeds automatically when connected to Wi-Fi. Moreover, after a short video clip is played, Weibo automatically shows another video clip, which might feature an ad of its own.
3. The Novelist and Fun Snapchat: Filters and Ads as Sponsored Content in Live Streaming
Snapchat has always been an industry benchmark. It offers the most fun features and is particularly good at brand advertising. For example, Burberry has secured a prominent spot on Snapchat by running its very own Discover channel. In addition, many big fashion houses, including Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang and Chanel have used Snapchat’s Live Story feature to show behind-the-scenes footage and stream runway shows. Snapchat also occasionally designs brand-themed Lenses (filters), while Starbucks, Tiffany and some upcoming movies have created Snapchat Lenses of their own.
China’s QQ has riji, a feature similar to Discover, while filters are a must-have feature for every short video app in China.
Compared with live streaming, short video’s development will be longer and more difficult, but its potential is unlimited.
1. Unless otherwise stated, all data provided by libra, Cheetah Mobile’s big data platform. On August 22, 2016, libra began using a broader range of new data sources, with a significant increase in data. The mobile app market is now reflected more fully and accurately in a growing number of data dimensions covering Daily Active Users (DAU), Weekly Active Users (WAU), Monthly Active Users (MAU), Install Penetration Rate and Retention Rate. Cheetah Global Lab leverages libra to provide users with more authoritative and informative mobile internet reports.
2. Data is collected through the normal use of Cheetah Mobile products in accordance with all relevant laws and regulations;
3. Rankings are only applicable to the Android platform;
4. Data is subject to the scale and distribution of Cheetah Mobile product users.