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Owner of TikTok Releases AI-Narrated Audiobook App

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TikTok owner ByteDance has released a new audio app called Tomato Uninterrupted Listening (Fanqie Chang Ting, 番茄畅听). The app is a long-form audio platform with a library of audiobooks and audio dramas; interestingly though, much of the content is narrated not by humans, but by AI.

The app features a range of books — from fantasy novels to self-help guides — and users can select from “standard,” “emotional,” or “boutique” male or female AI narration.

This is ByteDance’s first entry into the long-audio market, with competitor Tencent having just released its own integrated podcast, audiobook, and general long-audio platform in April of this year. ByteDance has been seeking to diversify its offerings after the enormous success of TikTok, known as Douyin in China.

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The audio content market is booming in China. In 2018, the number of online audio consumers reached 416 million people, and the industry is forecasted to be worth 6.2 billion RMB (~876 million USD) this year. Long-form content providers Dragonfly FM, Ximalaya FM, and Lychee FM currently lead the market, which looks to be moving speedily into smart home and vehicle-integration as well.

It’s too soon to say if ByteDance’s new platform will join the ranks of China’s audio boom (or whether its AI-powered narration will catch on), but it’s clear that major technology companies are all trying to get a foothold in this growing market.

Lakshmi Iyengar
    Lakshmi Iyengar is a Yenching Scholar studying health, economics, and modern China. Before moving to Beijing, she majored in Biomedical Engineering at Yale. Follow her on twitter @vlakshmiiyengar for insights on China and life