As it works to address advertiser concerns around ad placement alongside controversial content, rising video app TikTok is investigating the possibility of a curated content stream, similar to Snapchat's Discover surface.
The Financial Times reports that TikTok is looking at adding in a new highlights stream, which would display selected, original videos from popular TikTok creators, alongside content from professional publishers. The added curation would give TikTok's moderators more control over the viewing experience, ensuring that advertisers don't end up having their ads wedged in-between controversial posts.
And that is a significant concern - TikTok has already been investigated over several serious claims, ranging hosting sexual comments targeted at young children to encouraging pornography, which has even sparked bans of the app in some regions. TikTok is pushing to maximize its revenue potential as fast as it can, and as such, it needs to alleviate such concerns quickly, but as with all developing apps, there is a learning curve required, and the company has to adapt fast, and address such issues, without also imposing overt censorship. That, in itself, has lead to some errors in judgment from the app's moderation team.
In some ways, the proposal of a separate, curated feed does go against a key lure for TikTok users, in that the app seemingly doesn't focus on profile popularity in order to boost content viewership.
TikTok hasn't provided any insight into how its distribution algorithm works, but the theory is that TikTok is more reliant on the quality of each individual video upload, as opposed to weighting reach based on the uploading user. That, theoretically, opens up more opportunity for all users to see widespread distribution, as it's about the content itself, while it also means that your main 'For you' stream in the app is less likely to end flooded with professional creators and influencers as a result.
Creating a separate, more curated stream could lessen that ethos, but then again, if TikTok is able to generate more revenue, and build better connection with brands as a result, it may well be worth it. And it'd likely be an additional option anyway, not a replacement feed - so the current TikTok process would remain in your home timeline, but users would have the option to check a more curated listing of top content.
As noted, Snapchat's Discover feed appears to be the inspiration here. Over the last year, Snapchat has seen a big boost in viewership in its Discover feed - in May last year, Snap reported that its top 'Snap Originals' shows were seeing tens of millions of views, while in October, as part of its Q3 '19 update, Snap updated that figure, noting that more than 100 of its Discover channels are now reaching, on average, audiences in the double-digit millions per month.
TikTok wouldn't, at least at this stage, be looking to contract big-name publishers for exclusive content, or invest in creating 'TikTok originals' off its own bat. But again, the benefit of a dedicated, curated content stream could be that it both provides a showcase for top content, which could be popular in itself, and could also provide extra reach for top creators, keeping them active in the app. While it would additionally facilitate a brand-safe stream for advertisers.