Chinese news aggregator app, NewsDog’s foray into vernacular social media through its YoYo app has seen tepid response since its introduction a year ago. Launched in 2016, NewsDog, one of the late entrants in the news content aggregation space scaled to over 50 million downloads in a span of two years after its launch but has plateaued since.
In a bid to resolve this problem, the parent firm Hacker Interstellar Inc had silently launched a mobile app, YoYo, along the lines of Bigo Live and ShareChat-Helo that lets users share jokes, songs, short videos, WhatsApp status, Shayari amongst others. It also allows voice chat and connects its users with strangers.
The year-old app managed to amass around half-million downloads in a country of over 500 million internet users, failing to have a significant uptick amongst users. In the same period, NewsDog’s arch-rival Dailyhunt attracted 35 million-plus downloads as per data from Sensor Tower, a mobile app market intelligence firm.
“Launch of YoYo is in line with the strategy to keep experimenting and see what works. However, it seems like the company hasn’t been pushing YoYo aggressively,” said a person familiar with the company’s strategy, requesting anonymity. “Since Bigo and TikTok have been riding the wave of first-time internet users, founders thought YoYo would do the same but the plan didn’t work out.”
NewsDog’s plateaued growth since 2019
NewsDog’s usage hasn’t scaled since the middle of 2018, indicating the firm’s shift in strategy to explore other products. If we go by the Google Play Store number, it’s stuck at the 50 million-plus downloads bracket for over a year now. According to SensorTower, NewsDog has been averaging at less than 60K monthly downloads since April 2019. The app also barely managed some 2 million downloads since January 2019.
In contrast, between 2016-18, it used to be in the top five apps in terms of downloads under the news and media category on Google Play. Currently, it’s not even in the top 30.
“Two million downloads for NewsDog in 15 months clearly shows that the company’s growth has plateaued and it’s not pushing for downloads,” said a second source. He also did not wish to be named. “Engagement metrics such as MAUs and DAUs have also fallen sharply.”
According to him, monetising a content aggregation business is tough and the founders have realised it leading them to experiment with new ideas.
News aggregation business has come quite a distance in India in the past 7-8 years. It was around 2014 when DailyHunt and Inshorts started making serious efforts to bring every kind of news and information on their platform. The two have evolved into large setups with a massive user base.
Around early 2016, NewsDog ventured into the news aggregation business and its early success helped it raise $50 million from Tencent and others in May 2018. High on funding, NewsDog kept chasing scale till the first quarter of 2019 and crossed the 50 million downloads milestone, but has waned since. Fast forward to 2020, the app has gone under the radar falling out of news cycles.
Monetisation is undoubtedly a huge challenge in the content aggregation business. It could be evident from the failure of Alibaba-owned UC News and the financial performance of companies such as ShareChat, which had a loss of Rs 440 crore with zero operating income in FY19.
“Despite investing hundreds of millions of dollars in India to scale up UC News, Alibaba wasn’t able to find significant ground in India,” added the first source. “Lack of understanding of the local dynamics and limited scope of monetisation triggered Alibaba to scale down UC News in India. Similar reasons seem to be the case with NewsDog’s slow growth.”
Founders of NewsDog — Forrest Chen Yukun and Yi Ma — say that monetisation efforts have been fairing up well for the company.
“We are a startup and have been trying out several things which we can’t disclose,” Yukun told Entrackr over a WeChat call. “We will also be rolling out some exciting features on NewsDog soon.”
Yukun further revealed that they have 2-3 additional apps focused on India, without sharing further details.