Chinese-owned TikTok is growing fast as a source for news. Around half (49%) of top news publishers are now regularly publishing content on TikTok. A large proportion of these have joined TikTok in the last year, a study from Reuters Institute shows. The survey is based on data from 44 markets.
“News on TikTok is still mostly generated by social media influencers, activists, or ordinary people rather than by journalists. Many worry about the credibility of the information they see on TikTok and the potential for misinformation and disinformation”, the report says.
- Publisher adoption is not evenly spread. The vast majority of Indonesian (90%), Australian (89%), Spanish (86%), French (86%), and UK (81%) publishers operate active accounts on TikTok, along with more than three-quarters in the United States (US) (77%), and around two-thirds in Brazil (68%). News organisations in Japan (31%), Italy (29%), Denmark (27%), and Bulgaria (7%) have been slower to move onto the platform.
- News organisations are attracted by the fast-growing audience and younger demographic, but they are also motivated by the desire to provide reliable news, amid fears about widespread misinformation on the platform.
- Other publishers are staying away or engaging cautiously. Some worry about the Chinese ownership of the platform and the potential implications for free speech; others fear that the ‘TikTok-ification of news’ risks trivialising important stories as well as undermining business models that depend on referral traffic from social networks.
- There is no single recipe for success on TikTok. A number of publishers use a strategy based on young creators who are native to the platform and its unique language. Others prefer to showcase the talents of the entire newsroom, making minimal changes to existing tone or content.
- The process for getting ‘verified’ status on TikTok seems to be opaque and inconsistently applied. Our research showed that many publishers with a strong track record for trusted content, including debunking and fact-checking, do not yet have a blue tick, especially outside the US and Western Europe.
- Going forwards, interviewees say that publishers would like TikTok to offer greater prominence, more transparency, better monetisation opportunities, and access to more detailed demographic data. Many are unhappy that TikTok sometimes takes down or limits access to hard-hitting news stories from their accounts, arguing that legitimate news providers should be treated differently.