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News app Today's Headlines to transform into social media platform

A logo of Chinese news aggregator Today's Headlines. Photo: Reuters 

China's personalized news app Today's Headlines is trying to transform its role from an algorithm-based news aggregator to an innovation-driven social media platform.

At its creators' conference held last week, Today's Headlines Founder and Chief Executive Officer Zhang Yiming unveiled an ambitious project to support 1,000 accounts which are registered on the app and own a million fans separately.

The project is a part of Today's Headlines' plans to make its content sellable, as the app has grown as a popular content platform, where an average of 500,000 pieces of contents were shared every day in October.

The project comes a year after Today's Headlines spent 1 billion yuan to encourage creators to produce more original short videos, which helped take the average daily views of short videos on the Today's Headlines platform to over 10 billion.

More than two weeks ago, Today's Headlines' parent company bought famous teen social video app Musical.ly for about $800 million in a deal which adds Musical.ly's 100 million strong contingent of lip-synching video performers to Today's Headlines' 120 million readers and viewers, while potentially incorporating a popular social media component to its news offering service.

At last week's creators' conference, Zhang said that Today's Headlines would transform into a smart social media platform, a goal that could be achieved through algorithm that helps content creators to attract the fans they want.

Over the past five years, Today's Headlines has accumulated a great number of data about the interaction between content creators and readers through algorithm. It has helped the app become one of China's largest news services providers. Currently, Today's Headlines is valued at more than $20 billion.

"Currently, some authors registered on Today's Headlines have accumulated their own fans, and felt the great impact those fans have on them," Zhang said at the creator's conference, citing some examples about how authors earn money by creating original content and interacting with their fans.

The era of earning money through fans has just begun. And based in algorithm, Today's Headlines can help more content creators attract and gain more fans, Zhang said.

Today's Headlines' success without the endorsement of any of China's three biggest technology giants - Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent - proves that algorithm plays a key role in matching good content with the target readers or potential fans. Zhang described the process as an advantage that content creators could use to concentrate on original content creation.

"Only producing good contents can make content creators accessible to the potential fans. It will help the content creators reduce the time to become big verified accounts," said Zhang.

However, Today's Headlines' efforts to advocate original content creation might be thwarted by the country's stricter censorship rules. This year, the Chinese authorities have launched rounds of investigations into contents shared on the country's largest social media platforms such as WeChat and Weibo. What's more, those social media platforms were also required by the government to self-censor the contents before publishing them.

Worse still, the regulators even doubled down on their crackdown of virtual private networks ahead of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China held in October in Beijing.

In July 2016, the Cyberspace Administration of China said in a statement that online media could not report any news taken from social media platforms without approval.

Coincidently, in October of that year, Today's Headlines was under fire for its media credibility after it reposted a fake story written by a literally self-owned media. The story said that the Syrian government and the anti-government forces reached an agreement to cease fire for 48 hours in celebration of their team's surprise victory away to China in the third game of the final round of the 2018 World Cup Asia Zone qualifiers on October 6.

According to a judicial document issued by China's top court and prosecutor, people will be charged with defamation and will be sentenced to three years in prison if the online rumors they coin are viewed by more than 5,000 Internet users or reposted more than 500 times.


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