TikTok Wants to Takeover. Will it Succeed?
TikTok has reshaped the Internet in under a three-year span, but if its parent company, ByteDance, has its way, the platform’s dominance is just getting started. This week I brought Stan founder Denisha Kuhlor back onto the show to discuss TikTok’s ambitious plans for total media domination.
In the past few months, TikTok has announced plans for several new features — each aimed at competing with current media giants such as Google, Spotify, and Ticketmaster. Features include extending video-length capacity to 10 minutes, the TikTok Music streaming service, better internal search capabilities, and a ticketing platform, among many others.
Recent history in Western culture is not kind to companies trying to be an all-in-one platform. Google and Facebook stumbles come to mind. To predict how TikTok might fare, Denisha and I hit the new features point-by-point, weighing TikTok’s advantages and disadvantages at breaking into each. Here’s our main talking points:
[0:50 ] TikTok’s masterplan
[7:02 ] Prediction: 10-minute-long TikTok videos
[11:50 ] Prediction: TikTok music streaming service
[15:43 ] Prediction: Enhanced TikTok search
[22:00 ] Prediction: SoundOn music distribution
[25:42 ] Prediction: In-app ticketing
[29:46 ] Are consumers creator or platform loyal?
[33:18 ] TikTok’s impact on creator economy
[37:22 ] TikTok’s geopolitical issues
Listen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSS
Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.co
Guests: Denisha Kuhlor, @denishakuhlor
MoonPay is the leader in web3 infrastructure. They have partnered with Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. To learn more, visit moonpay.com/trapital
Enjoy this podcast? Rate and review the podcast here! ratethispodcast.com/trapital
Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo.
[00:00:00 ] Denisha Kuhlor: It has become this trend where we have more affinity to the platform and the platform's ability to curate the content than some of these content creators themselves. And in a world where I think these content creators are so driven to following the algorithm and getting promoted by the algorithm, what they don't realize is kind of the uniformity in content that is created.
[00:00:30 ] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level.
[00:00:50 ] Dan Runcie: All right. We're joined again today by Denisha Kuhlor, who is the founder and CEO of Stan. And today we're going to talk all about TikTok. And TikTok has been a topic I know you and I have talked about offline, we've both covered it and have our opinions on it, but I want to talk today about talk's grand plan to try to take over everything. Just to name a few headlines from the past couple of months, TikTok is planning to extend into 10-minute long videos. It is launching its own music distribution service called SoundOn. It filed a trademark for its own streaming service called TikTok Music. They are enhancing their search function to identify key terms. They're also adding in a text-to-image option as well so that people can start to do that. And it sounds like a lot, the company has grown quite a bit, so it's understandable. But do we think that TikTok is going to be able to do all of these things? What's your thought?
[00:01:47 ] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah. So TikTok's been really interesting to watch these last few months and honestly, really from inception, my initial hunch is that it's hard to do a lot of things well. And as TikTok grows and somewhat through replication and also a bit through innovation, I do think they're going to struggle to really get to scale for all the new features that they want to launch.
[00:02:11 ] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I think the tough thing with this, and it's something that has been ingrained with big tech companies for a while is when the big social network grows and they have this huge following. TikTok now is the fastest to reach 1 billion monthly active users. We can see the trajectory of it potentially getting to be as big as Facebook is now. And Facebook, of course, is another company that has tried and is still trying to do every possible thing under the sun. But I think the part that's important is there are a few examples when these companies have succeeded. Instagram copying Snapchat is of course the primary example that people often look back to, but more often than not, most of these attempts don't actually work that well. And one of the reasons they don't work as well is because they don't necessarily solve a true need that the core users are looking for to be solved from that app. And I think that's one of the important things about Instagram Story specifically because Instagram Stories copy Snapchat worked because Instagram already had a hub of influencers as its core users. And these core users wanted to be able to both post pictures, but they also didn't want to feel the pressure of needing to have this polished picture that was on their feed all of the time. So their thought was, okay, if they could copy this feed that they see Snapchat's doing, they already had the core users there and having something that's more ephemeral. It can go away in 24 hours was perfect. It worked as good as you could probably expect it to. And honestly, it worked better than Snapchat because Instagram already had the home base of those core users whereas Snapchat, at the time, they had a bit of penetration from Gen Z, a bit of DJ Khaled here and there, but it just wasn't to that same level. And I think when you look at a lot of the other attempts that Facebook has tried to copy from others and even Instagram as well with seeing with Reels, that's the piece that I go back to. If these successes and these copycat attempts haven't worked, it's usually because there's some type of disconnect between what the core users on that app are looking for and whether or not that new feature helps them do that.
[00:04:23 ] Denisha Kuhlor: Totally. And I think it creates a culture even internally for these organizations of duplication versus innovation, right? So now you see these organizations going and seeking the desire to duplicate and get to market as quickly as possible, whereas before they had no choice but to be innovative. And to do that, I think they really had to listen to their users and the folks on the app. So it also just even changes, in a way, the culture of what the app is about because now folks are so used to see or expecting to see things that have already been done before, rather than excitement towards really where the platform could take things.
[00:05:01 ] Dan Runcie: Yeah, it's interesting because, on one hand, I do understand the aspect of copying what's already successful. You see it's there and you know that you have those users on your platform already. So why not make an attempt, why not use your resources, especially because of how much money these companies print on ads, then, yeah, you could take the chance with Google having its Google X or Facebook opening up its own VC firm or in many ways, treating all these new initiatives as its own VC firm. But to your point, you do lose the innovation and that's exactly why these apps became relevant in the first place. They offered something newer. They did it in a truly unique way. And when you think about why TikTok has blown up, the genius of it is that For You page. They made it so frictionless to be able to stay entertained, to scroll. You don't have to think about who to follow. You don't need to do any of those things. And that is its biggest strength, but I think it also makes it very challenging to have any type of new feature that is harder or requires more user- input or more activity than the mindless scrolling that has worked in its favor up to this point.
[00:06:11 ] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, I completely agree. I feel like the For You page really was the magic and to, in some ways, see them stray away from that, or even improving that in other ways does feel a little unfortunate. Some of the features that you listed, while exciting, I think are just not necessary in the sense that so many other folks are out there doing it. But it will be interesting to see how it fits within maybe the grand scheme or the grand vision for TikTok users and creators. I mean, when it comes down to maybe offering a more seamless experience, then it gets a little bit more interesting. But how big of a problem is that right now for creators, especially when you think about, like, some of the plays towards distribution and features around that? The problems don't seem prevalent enough to justify the investment. But maybe there's a grand vision within all of that, in which it makes more sense.
[00:07:02 ] Dan Runcie: So let's break those down. Let's go through each of 'em. Let's start first with TikTok extending into 10-minute videos. I do feel like this is probably the least friction out of each of them, but what's your thought on this expansion and clearly a move to compete