Jinri Toutiao, China's top news aggregator app, has pledged to pull in more cash incentives and traffic dividends to reward content curators as it banks on algorithms to shake up the traditional media industry.
Efforts include striving to ensure that 1,000 online writers each have 1 million followers next year on its Toutiao account, a news-publishing site, said Zhang Yiming, founder and CEO of Toutiao.
Using machine learning technologies to promote relevant content to prospective users, the Beijing-based firm aims to help individual writers build up their follower base and thus increase content exposure, Zhang told the Annual Content Creators Conference in Beijing on Wednesday.
It will also distribute virtual "red envelopes" containing cash to new followers, and budget 1 billion yuan (1 million) in 2018 to subsidize those who avidly post answers on Wukong Q&A, a Quora-like knowledge sharing service, he added.
"With a sizable fan base, influencers are more likely to endorse brands and even jumpstart a pay-per-view model, which would in turn bring them more decent financial returns," Zhang said.
Established five years ago, Toutiao has quickly grown into a media platform that encompasses news aggregators, publishing tools, micro-blog services, Q&A platforms, and short-form video apps. It has dwarfed traditional news portals by scouring a massive number of sources to filter news and tailor feeds.
Algorithms spring into action when its 100 million daily active users log on and subscribe to its variety of services. The platform can scan, collect and judge everything a user posts or shares, ranking them all in what it believes to be the precise order of relevance and value.
"Just because Toutiao doesn't have its own staff writers, finding and cultivating the groups of curators becomes critical to building enough sets of the data it relies on to expand its user base," said Huang Yihe, an analyst covering the technology sector at consultancy firm Mintel.
Toutiao is riding the boom of China's online content creation sector that could become a multibillion-dollar business by 2020, according to iResearch.
The plan would draw inevitable comparisons with a similar "content alliance" rolled out by social media giant Tencent Holdings Ltd, which pledged to put down 10 billion yuan to support content creators.