Will Kuaishou Do What Quibi Couldn’t?

Though Quibi, the short-form content platform, may no longer be active, a developer from China believes they possess the capabilities to re-imagine the platform more effectively. Quibi itself wasn’t a flawed concept; however, it failed to attract viewers who were presumably more accustomed to, and now increasingly desirous of, longer-form content beyond brief snippets. So, what exactly is Kuaishou, and what has piqued the interest of major tech companies in it?

Why Did Quibi Fail?

When it launched in April 2020, some believed that Quibi would revolutionize how we viewed media. Others, quite rightly, wondered who the platform was really for. Still, despite any misgivings, former Walt Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg pushed ahead with the short-form content streaming service. Unfortunately for Katzenberg, but predictably for critics, nobody really signed up nor cared for Quibi. In December 2020, after falling short of its projections, Quibi was shut down. It was subsequently sold to Roku for under $100 million.

In China, the Kuaishou app founded in 2011 is already making waves to replace Quibi. Quibi’s main reason for failing was that the content was designed for a mobile market. Americans – and Europeans who had access – didn’t want to watch short-form content on mobile phones. But it appears there is an audience in China for this. Kuaishou – with a revenue of $7.2 billion in 2019 – altered the format. Instead of random shows, shows were adaptations of existing franchises to tap into their fanbases. And instead of glossy HGTV, shows weren’t designed to look too snazzy – so appealed to those watching on smartphones.

Kuaishou only tapped into the short-form market in 2019 and found that the audience was far more receptive of them, especially busy people who didn’t have time to watch traditional TV. Indeed, 20,000 short-form series have been made and there have been more than 210 million viewers of the style of content since it launched in 2019. So, it’s clear that changing how we view content was a good idea from Quibi – but that the audience they selected was wrong. Kuaishou’s success in China has attracted the developers of Tik Tok, who are also famed for short-form yet conclusive storytelling.

But what does this tell us about other industries? Could changing something established attract a new audience? While Quibi might not have done so, Kuaishou did do this. It turns out that this isn’t as out there as you might think – many other industries have been changed for the better by altering how audiences can interact with them. This is especially true of traditional industries that have applied modern technology to improve their positioning or to appeal to new customers and audiences.

Tech Helps Reshape Industries

Technology has a huge influence on how industries find ways to re-adapt themselves to the demands of new customers and changing attitudes. Even businesses such as those who operate boats have added motorized kayaks to their roster of vessels. Facebook has even changed how we send birthday cards with many sending messages online instead of in person.

For example, the online casino industry reshaped one of the most traditional industries around but still managed to find ways to continually adapt to new audiences. The options for playing online roulette at Betway, for instance, include traditional versions that utilise animations and video onscreen as well as live versions of roulette. These live versions show the player a real dealer in front of them who interacts with the camera and the game plays out in real-time, adding an element of tension to the existing gameplay. Elsewhere, museums such as the iconic Louvre Museum in Paris, France, have revolutionised new audiences by allowing them to view content from the museum online. Not only does this bridge a gap between physical and digital but it garners goodwill on behalf of the museum.

The Yellow Pages in the UK changed its business model to become Yell.com and digitised the entire phone book directory. By adapting to the new customer base – those who are searching online – the business remained viable and wasn’t lost in the move from analogue to digital. Beauty brand Glossier was built from content and editorial rather than products. By focusing on the type of customer they wanted rather than the products and services they wanted to flog, a new breed of customer could be tapped into.

Moreover, despite what the majority may believe, Kodak is still in existence. The cautionary tale of delivering something to customers that they didn’t want, Kodak managed to hang in by changing its business strategy. Instead of film for consumers to use in cameras at home, Kodak both focused on the commercial market for film and also launched its own cryptocurrency. The KodakCoin appealed to photographers and those who may have wanted to use the immutable aspects of the blockchain to store and send data and create contracts.

Overall, we can see that across a variety of industries, altering how businesses work and what they offer can appeal to customers in a better way. Where Quibi missed the mark, Kuaishou hit its stride. The concept of short-form content was wanted – but not in the way Quibi delivered in, and perhaps not to the audience that Quibi aimed to appeal to. Perhaps the success of Kuaishou will lead to a resurgence of Quibi elsewhere in the world.

The technology industry often finds ways to change our lives. But more often than not these methods are influenced by what we want anyway and dragged down through consumer demand. Industries are constantly in flux both because technology has changed and given us new applications in different sectors and because consumers’ wants and needs are also always changing.


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