In this episode, we try to unpack the mystery of China: its tech giants, its attention economy and, yes, the role of the Communist Party. Our guide is Humphrey Ho, US Managing Director of China-based agency Hylink Digital.
One key difference between the largest tech companies in China – the so called BBAT companies Baidu, ByteDance, Alibaba and Tencent – and FAANG in the United States is how jealously they guard their users. The Chinese walled gardens are far less interoperable and more vicious with each other.
“Imagine there are five city-states,” Ho says. “They are clearly very well-walled but there’s roads connected to all of them. The Chinese user, just like the Western user, has a certain amount of eyeball time on their phones and on their PCs, so a new player like Bytedance coming in and stealing time is the biggest concern of the established players.”
As a result, these competitors block each other’s links and images often don’t load or don’t load properly.
Partly as a result of this, user data flow between platforms and from the platforms to the advertisers is even more restrictive in China than it is in the United States.
“You do not have the ability to collect data from one walled garden or one city-state into the other, unlike [in the United States],” he says. “Even advertisers and other programmatic platforms have to collect a lot of attributed data simply because the publishers share certain portions of their data with us and therefore the sketch of the user is not very full.”
Also in this episode: Are Chinese tech giants the tools of the Communist Party of China? Why has TikTok been such a runaway success in the United States? And will we see more Chinese tech spread like wildfire in the coming years?