TikTok follows Snap and Facebook by launching plan to run ads in other apps

The Logo of social media app TikTok (also known as Douyin) is displayed on a smartphone on December 14, 2018 in Berlin, Germany.
Thomas Trutschel | Photothek | Getty Images

TikTok is following Snap and Facebook by launching an audience network, meaning it wants to make more money from advertising that appears on other apps.

Having an audience network means that when advertisers buy ad spots on TikTok, they can also buy ad spots on other apps at the same time. The network is currently available in Japan, and a report in industry publication AdWeek suggests it is being tested in East Asia, including in China, where the app is known as Douyin. It is unclear whether it will be rolled out to other markets.

Facebook has had its own audience network since 2014, and claims that advertisers see higher click-through rates as a result — and of course, it also means more ad dollars for Facebook. Snapchat launched its audience network in April, announced at its Partner Summit in Los Angeles, as it struggled to maintain user growth.

TikTok has taken the social media world by storm, being the number one most downloaded app on iOS globally in 2018. Its main income source are purchases people make through the app — people buy virtual currency, which they then gift to content creators.

How TikTok took the world by storm
How TikTok took the world by storm

It is mainly used by teens and pre-teens and allows users to create and share short videos, and has 500 million active monthly users, compared with Twitter's 326 million, but its ad business appears to be currently small, with advertisers having to sign up to its "create an ad" page before being contacted by a sales rep.

The app has come under fire in the U.S. and U.K. for how it collects children's information. The Federal Trade Commission fined it $5.7 million in February for illegally collecting such information, and in July the U.K.'s Information Commissioner's Office announced it is investigateing whether TikTok had violated the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

TikTok is owned by Chinese giant ByteDance, a private company reported to be worth $75 billion. It also owns news aggregator Toutiao, video-message app Duoshan and Indian social network Helo.

TikTok declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.