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TikTok’s news boom: Rise of short-form video in US

TikTok's news boom: Rise of short-form video in US
TikTok's news boom: Rise of short-form video in US

As TikTok continues to capture the attention of millions of Americans, the platform’s rapid growth comes amid increased concerns about data privacy and national security. 

In March, the United States House of Representatives labeled TikTok as “a surveillance tool” used by “Communist China” to target, surveil and manipulate American citizens. The House passed a bill banning TikTok nationwide. It’s likely to “enact the law soon.” 

Despite the controversy, US adults are still turning to the short video platform for their daily doses of news and entertainment. Kirsten Eddy, senior news researcher at the Pew Research Center, examined Americans’ relationship with TikTok. 

TikTok’s popularity

Eddy’s report found that a third of American adults use TikTok. Of those, the biggest age bracket is 18 to 29 years old (62%), followed by adults aged 30 to 40 (39%), and ages 50 to 64 (24%). Despite the House’s concern about the platform’s influence on the youth, six in ten teenagers use the app daily. 

TikTok’s user base has grown rapidly over the years. A separate survey by Pew Research’s Jeffrey Gottfried highlights the platform’s growth spurt since 2021. At the time, only YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram exceeded it in terms of popularity. 

TikTok is also more popular among women (40% compared to 25% of men) and Hispanic adults (49%), compared to 39% of Black adults, 29% of Asian adults, and 28% of white adults. 

TikTok as a news source

The platform has long since evolved from a place solely for light-hearted fluff, funny cat videos, and recipes. As of 2023, the vast majority of adults (43%) in the US consider TikTok as a news source, too. 

At the time of the survey, X (formally known as Twitter) was still considered the go-to news source for the public and media professionals alike. While citizens have become disillusioned with Facebook and Instagram, X was still soaring through its pre-Elon Musk era. 

But despite TikTok’s popularity as a trusted news source, 59% of American adults also (ironically) said they viewed the app and its business model “as a major or minor threat to US national security.” This includes four in ten Republicans and 45% of adults aged 65 and older. 

What is TikTok doing right? 

Soon after these findings were published, Rolling Stone magazine said most citizens “getting their news from TikTok […] doesn’t mean we’re screwed.” The article quoted Dave Jorgenson, the video journalist behind the Washington Post’s official TikTok account. 

Jorgenson says “newsrooms should continue to report on what’s happening, but also they shouldn’t be afraid to report on it on those platforms.” 

“And what’s always been cool about TikTok is that from the very beginning, we have had that community. That’s very different from anything else I’ve experienced in my 10 years in journalism,” Jorgenson adds. 

With approximately 170 million Americans using it, TikTok is not going away any time soon. Despite the legislation and challenges ahead, it remains one of the most downloaded apps in the US. 

TikTok’s way to the top

TikTok’s success can be attributed to its robust marketing strategies. In 2024, it set the bold move of dominating the e-commerce market. The goal is to expand its TikTok Shop to a whopping $17.5 billion market share, while aiming to reach 2 billion monthly users by December 2024.

MORE HERE: TikTok targets $17.5 billion with expansion in 2024

According to Business of Apps, the app reached 727 million downloads (second only to WhatsApp) in 2019, before reaching the top spot in 2020 with 850 million downloads. It was at the top again in 2021 with 656 million downloads and was downloaded 672 million times in 2022. 

TikTok was only dethroned as the top social media app in 2023. Despite reaching more than 654 million downloads throughout the year Instagram overtook it with a mere 42 million. 

About the author

Cheryl has contributed to various international publications, with a fervor for data and technology. She explores the intersection of emerging tech trends with logistics, focusing on how digital innovations are reshaping industries on a global scale. When she's not dissecting the latest developments in AI-driven innovation and digital solutions, Cheryl can be found gaming, kickboxing, or navigating the novel niches of consumer gadgetry.

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