Reports > Global News App Market:Development Situation and Trends Part2——China
Global News App Market:Development Situation and Trends Part2——China
2016 - 09 - 26


The Chinese market stands out in the global news app market structure. As a global leader in internet software and hardware, combined with the world’s largest user base, China is regarded as fertile ground by developers around the world.

But in reality, the leading global news apps are finding it difficult to duplicate their global success in China. The Chinese market is very different from other parts of the world where Google Play Newsstand, Google News & Weather and Flipboard tend to dominate. Many people will blame this on an unfair competitive environment in China, but the situation isn’t quite that simple. Compared to other countries, where the markets are highly monopolized by a few select players, the Chinese market can be thought of as consisting of two dominant players, two strong competitors, and four tiers.

The battle between Tencent and Jinri Toutiao is never-ending, while leading aggregation apps Tiantian Kuaibao and Yidian Zixun are hot on their heels. Traditional portal companies are refusing to go down without a fight as they leverage their popularity from the PC era to target loyal users. The vast news app market and its large user base also provide fertile ground for emerging developers who are able to compete and co-exist in the flourishing vertical market.

The following analysis will use appinsight’s data from July 4-10, 2016 as a reference to list the Top 30 news apps in the Chinese market, and perform a deep-dive analysis based on fluctuations in app rankings and market shares to gain insight into the current ecosystem and identify the opportunities and future development trajectory of China’s news and information app market.

Explanation of data:

1.Unless otherwise marked, all data was gathered from Cheetah Mobile’ s 3.1 billion installations and 623 million monthly active users worldwide;

2.Data was collected from the normal use of Cheetah Mobile’ s products, adherent to all relevant laws and regulations;

3.Appinsight data is limited to the scope of Cheetah Mobile’ s products and user distribution; only applicable to the Android platform

I. Overview of China’s News App Rankings and Market Environment

1. China’s news app market penetration rate rising quickly

The above bar graph shows that the penetration rate of news apps in China has jumped to 19.42%, up from 16% at the beginning of the year, representing a 21% increase. The line graph shows changes to the news app category in the overall app category rankings. From the graph, we can see that news apps have moved up from eighth place at the beginning of the year to fifth place as of July. News apps have even surpassed shopping and social media apps in the rankings. These two graphs both indicate that the number of news app users in China is steadily rising. Moreover, the following analysis will show that the rise in China’s news app penetration rate has benefited from the rapid rise in personalized news recommendation apps.

2. China’s Top 30 News App Rankings

China’s Top 30 News App Rankings



Active Penetration Rate

Average Weekly Openings


Jinri Toutiao(今日头条)




Tencent News(腾讯新闻)




Yidian Zixun(一点资讯)




Tiantian Kuaibao(天天快报)




Sohu News(搜狐新闻)




iFeng News(凤凰新闻)




NetEase News(网易新闻)








Sina News(新浪新闻)








UC Toutian(UC头条)








Weibo Toutiao(微博头条)




Baidu News(百度新闻)












The paper(澎湃新闻)




Juzi Entertainment(橘子娱乐)








Zhihu Ribao(知乎日报)








Google News & Weather








Hua’er Jie Jianwen(华尔街见闻)




News Republic




Baozou Ribao(暴走日报)




Google Play Newsstand





PC Online





Tiexue Junshi





Tujie Dianying



Data current as of July 10, 2016

Active penetration rate = app WAUs/total news app WAUs

A higher percentage indicates a higher market share

II. Market overview: Two Top apps, two strong apps, and four tiers divide the Chinese market

Looking at the rankings for news apps in the Chinese market, the proportion of WAUs shows that competition in China’s news app market can be broken in to four groups.

Group #1: Jinri Toutiao and Tencent News

Jinri Toutiao and Tencent News maintain a strong advantage, claiming doing more than twice as well as the number-three app. Together, they form the first group of apps leading the news app market. Tencent News has leveraged the user base it attracted during the PC era to become as strong as ever in the mobile market. Meanwhile, Jinri Toutiao has leveraged its algorithms’ capability to precisely recommend content as well as its ability to break news to develop its advantage and firm position at the top of China’s news app market.

Group #2: Yidian Zixun and Tiantian Kuaibao

Group #2 includes Yidian Zixun - funded by - and Tiantian Kuaibao - funded by Tencent. The weekly active users of Yidian Zixun amount to the combined weekly active users of the apps ranked between five and ten.

Group #3: Traditional Portal Sites Play to Their Strengths

Sohu, IFeng, Sina, and Netease, all formerly dominant portal sites, have not performed ideally in their transition to mobile clients. Division of content by columns and channels remains prominent, although interest tags are continuously added. But these sites cannot easily compare with aggregation apps like Jinri Toutiao when it comes to content recommendation.

When major incidents occur, however, reports from traditional news portals have an irreplaceable advantage. What aggregation sites lack is these portal sites’ exclusive content and ability to create original reports. Relying on their exclusive content resources, they remain able to attract their own fans, and their news capabilities should not be underestimated.

Group #4: In a segmented market, a myriad of apps arise

After Group #3, the remaining apps form a more competitive, diverse group. These apps, targeting distinct market segments or producing more specific content, meet demand from subgroups of users. Well-designed apps like ZAKER, Zhihu, and Hao Wai, which focus on the needs of smaller user groups, are good examples. Although they do not have high market share, they have more well-defined user groups and unique value.

III. Competitionbetween portal and aggregation News app

1. Fierce portal and aggregation app competition; high aggregation app stickiness

Portal and aggregation apps each account for five of the Top 10 news apps in China.

The active penetration rate of news aggregation apps is higher than portal news apps in China. As the top apps from their respective categories, the active penetration rates of Tencent News and Jinri Toutiao are significantly higher than their competitors.

By examining the average weekly openings data, we discover that news aggregation apps that are opened a higher number of times per week have higher user stickiness. News aggregation apps are opened an average of 2.9 times per week, while portal news apps are opened an average of 2.5 times per week.

Three of the top five news apps in China are personalized news recommendation apps, namely Jinri Toutiao, Yidian Zixun and Tiantian Kuaibao. Personalized news recommendation apps already occupy a dominant position in China’s news app market. This phenomenon is unique from any other country in the world, and only took little more than a year to take shape.

2. In 2015, personalized recommendation apps completely surpassed portal news apps

The above graph shows that 2015 marked a milestone year in China’s news app market. In 2015, personal news recommendation apps completely surpassed portal news apps. At the beginning of 2015, Jinri Toutiao’s WAUs were less than half of Tencent News, but through the course of the year, Jinri Toutiao’s user numbers skyrocketed, finally surpassing Tencent News in September 2015. A similar situation happened to Yidian Zixun. In early 2015, Yidian Zixun had roughly the same number of users as iFeng News, NetEase News, Sohu News and Sina News, but by the end of the year, its active user base had increased three-fold. Over the same period, portal media app WAUs have remained essentially the same, and even declined in some cases.

IV. China’s News App Market Characteristics

1. Top 4 app in fierce competition, Tencent defending itself adeptly, Yidian Zixun waiting for a chance to overtake it

Of the top our apps, two are Tencent products, Tencent news and Tiantian Kuaibao. It would be difficult for any product to overthrow Jinri Toutiao and take its number-one spot, but the team of Tencent News and Tiantian Kuaibao are more or less able to stay neck and neck with Jinri Toutiao in terms of market share because of their numbers advantage.

Of these top four, Tencent-created Tiantian Kuaibao is similar to Jinri Toutiao in that they are both personalized news recommendation apps; Tiantian Kuaibao’s functions are comparable to those of Jinri Toutiao. Tiantian Kuaibao has earned considerable market share thanks in part to Tencent’s resources and traffic.

Tiantian Kuaibao and Yidian Zixun have been alternating for third place for a long time, a situation which will likely continue for the near future.

2. Not necessarily strength in numbers: Tencent defending against the combined force of the other portals

Despite being heavily outnumbered, Tencent has been able to maintain a huge lead in terms of active user numbers over China’s four other major news portals, including Sohu News, iFeng News, NetEase News and Sina News.

Tencent News has claimed the high ground in part because of the users who have remained since the PC era, and in part because news aggregation apps have delivered a serious blow to traditional portal websites, undermining their development models, a concern that has not impacted Tencent.

The Tencent-funded app Tiantian Kuaibao has acted as its wingman, protecting it on either side. In the short term, Tiantian Kuaibao’s objective has not been to directly take on Jinri Toutiao, but to attack Yidian Zixun and shut down dark horses in the industry eager to enter the fray. Tiantian Kuaibao protects Tencent’s leading position and ensures that it will not be distracted during its competition with Jinri Toutiao and the many portal websites.

Following a turbulent 2015, the traditional portal app market has remained relatively steady in 2016 with very little fluctuation. Sohu, iFeng, NetEase and Sina make up the third tier of the news app market. Due to their high-quality content, portal news apps possess stable user bases that will not easily abandon them for personal recommendation apps.

Sohu News’s slogan is “Know Everything”. It positions itself as an open platform for all media. Sohu’s we media platform is the home to numerous we-media bloggers, and it also possesses high quality media resources. On top of this, Sohu has launched a personalized recommendation service and added personal recommendation content.

NetEase News positions itself as the “news and information client with attitude”. It has a comprehensive user points system, in which users can earn points by reading news. These points can then be exchanged for corresponding prizes in the app’s marketplace. Additionally, a large number of comments appear under every news article on NetEase News. NetEase’s active comment sections has led to the formation of a unique “follow-up” culture which has become the primary attraction for many users.

It’s worth noting that after iFeng News and purchased a little-known app called “Yidian Zixun” in 2015, the move was initially questioned, but now the results speak for themselves. With the support of iFeng’s rich content and resources, Yidian Zixun has become the third-ranked news apps in China. The iFeng News client itself has remained the same, with a focus on providing traditional news reports. iFeng News is adept at quickly changing the home screen and publishing interactive special reports on its app, especially in response to major events. This has reinforced users’ perception of iFeng as a highly authoritative news source.

Sina News, China’s earliest portal media website, has fallen slightly behind other portal media apps following its transition to mobile. This is likely because Sina’s strategic focus has shifted from its news app to Weibo. Sina wants to leverage Weibo as a socialized information dissemination platform to capture market share. Sina News’s distinguishing characteristic is a 24-hour news stream of domestic, international and social news content. It can react to major events quickly, and its association with Weibo allows it to publish news across both platforms, increasing the reach of its content.

3. Traditional news media failing miserably in the news app market

The influence of traditional print media news apps is very limited in China’s news app market. 17th-ranked Pengpai Xinwen is the only app of this sort that is performing relatively well. On the one hand, portal and aggregation apps are growing much more quickly, while on the other hand, China’s traditional media system is relatively rigid, so transformation occurs at a much slower pace.

Pengpai Xinwen is the result of restructuring at Shanghai United Media Group. With the slogan “online platform focused on current affairs, politics and opinions”, Pengpai Xinwen primarily features current affairs and political news and analysis. It both produces and aggregates high-quality Chinese language current affairs and political news and opinion pieces from across the web. Of all the traditional media outlets that have transitioned to mobile, Pengpai Xinwen is the only one that has been relatively successful.

4. Vertical markets are flourishing, but market share is limited

Below the 11th-ranked app in China’s news app market, practically every app is a vertical app, which indicates that there exists a flourishing market in China for apps targeting niche user communities, but due to user segmentation, the market share for these types of apps will never be very large. Milnews, Juzi Entertainment, Zhihu Ribao and Hua’er Jie Jianwen were all developed to target users interested in special topics, such as military affairs, entertainment and economics.

China has a large number of military enthusiasts. Because of this, military-related content is quite popular. Milnews is published by China’s popular military affairs website Its high position in China’s news app rankings shows that has been relatively successful transitioning to mobile. The app not only aggregates military-related headlines and commentary from around the world, but is also produces first-rate commentary and reports covering the latest military news and intelligence from China, overseas and the Taiwan strait, which has made it very popular with readers.

Zhihu Ribao is an off-shoot of Zhihu, China’s most popular question-and-answer platform, similar to Quora, which produces tons of valuable content on a daily basis. Zhihu Ribao collects the most valuable answers each day and recommends them to readers. Zhihu Ribao claims that its average reading time per user is 21 minutes, far higher than the average reading time of users on mobile news clients. Therefore, its slogan is “three visits a day, seven minutes per visit”.

Juzi Entertainment primarily targets female users, aged 15-21. It provides entertainment-related content, including celebrity gossip, fashion, film & television, lifestyle and beauty content, as well as humorous GIFs. It takes the newest, most popular and coolest entertainment news and packages it in a way that is attractive to the younger generation. Juzi Entertainment’s most characteristic feature is the incorporation of strong interactive mechanisms, such as “bullet screen” comments and a system to rate people’s appearances, which has made it popular with young, internet-savvy users, especially fashionable young ladies.

5. International giants face their “Waterloo” in China

International news app giants like Google Play Newsstand, Google News & Weather and Flipboard are experiencing great difficulties in China. Google is struggling partly because many of its products have been banned in China and partly because of its own strategic failures. Global news aggregation app leader Flipboard has achieved great success globally due to its pre-installation agreement with Samsung. It has risen extremely quickly to become the number one news apps in terms of active penetration rate in many countries.

But in the Chinese market, Flipboard has found it difficult to make progress and achieve a meaningful breakthrough. This is because Flipboard relies so heavily on its pre-installation agreement with Samsung. In other countries, mobile handset manufacturers have difficulty challenging Samsung’s dominance, but China has outstanding local competitors like Xiaomi, Huawei and Meizu. Therefore, Samsung does not possess any market advantage whatsoever, and its sales are continuously low China. Unable to escape this situation, Flipboard’s pre-installation strategy has naturally failed in China.

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