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用人工智能筛选“今日头条”
Toutiao touts AI for individual news in vast China market

来源:FT中文网    2017-05-12 05:31



        Every day, in a former Beijing aeroplane factory that is now the headquarters of Jinri Toutiao, servers sort and tag some 200,000 articles and videos that the mobile app’s users will consume that day.        今日头条的总部设在北京一座曾经的飞机制造厂里,每天,这里的服务器都要对约20万条文章和视频进行整理和贴标签,供这个移动应用的用户当天阅览。
        With nearly 600m users, five-year-old Toutiao has overtaken traditional and state-owned media to become a significant channel through which the world’s most populous country gets its news.        成立五年、拥有近6亿用户的今日头条,已超越传统和国有媒体,成为世界人口第一大国获取新闻的一条重要渠道。
        Meaning “Today’s Headlines”, Jinri Toutiao is also one of China’s most valuable tech start-ups, valued at $11bn after its latest Series D funding round led by Sequoia Capital last month. That is more than 20 times its $500m valuation in 2014, sparking a debate over the worth of what is essentially a news aggregation app.         今日头条也是目前中国估值最高的科技初创企业之一。在完成由红杉资本(Sequoia Capital)领投的D轮融资后,其估值已达110亿美元,较2014年5亿美元的估值高出20余倍,由此引发了一场围绕本质上是一款新闻聚合应用的价值的辩论。
        While Toutiao hosts content but does not produce it, it maintains it has a key selling point in its “intelligent news feed”, where artificial intelligence and machine learning software tailor content.        尽管今日头条发布内容,但并不生成内容。它坚称自己有一个关键卖点:“智能新闻推送”,即由人工智能与机器学习软件对内容进行个性化定制。
        “We strive to become the information platform that knows each individual best,” Tina Zhao, vice-president, said in an interview. “No two users’ feed lists are alike.”        今日头条高级副总裁赵添(Tina Zhao)在接受采访时表示:“我们努力成为最了解每一位用户喜好的信息平台。没有两位用户的新闻列表是一样的。”
        It is betting that a personalised user experience will give it an edge over its competitors — the tech triumvirate of Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.        今日头条押注的是,个性化的用户体验将使其相对于竞争对手——科技三巨头百度(Baidu)、阿里巴巴(Alibaba)和腾讯(Tencent)——拥有优势。
        “Back in the days when Toutiao was born, the Chinese information market was dominated by web portals like Sina and Sohu. Their mobile products were simply moving content from web to mobile, and user experience . . . was not good enough,” said Ms Zhao.        赵添表示:“今日头条刚诞生时,中国的信息市场还是由新浪(Sina)和搜狐(Sohu)之类的门户网站把持着。他们的移动产品仅仅是把内容从网络端挪到移动端,用户体验……并不太好。”
        Founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming, a former software engineer, Toutiao has grown rapidly in the past year. Its number of daily active users rose from 30m to 78m in 2016 — making it the tenth most-used app in China — as it capitalised on voracious demand for interesting content, in a country still dominated by state-owned media.        今日头条是2012年由前软件工程师张一鸣创建的。过去一年里,公司发展迅速。日活用户数从3000万增至2016年的7800万,在中国热门应用中排名第10。在中国这个仍由官方媒体主导的国家,人们对于有趣的内容有着旺盛需求,今日头条利用了这一点。
        “We are not like other news portals which provide news with a certain position. Rather, we are a neutral platform, providing news to every person depending on what they are interested in,” said Mr Zhang, in a 2015 interview with Chinese media.        张一鸣在2015年接受中国媒体采访时曾表示:“我们和其他带有一定立场提供内容的新闻门户网站不一样。我们是一个中立的平台,根据每个人的兴趣来提供新闻。”
        Toutiao’s readers can browse Chinese-language news, commentary and video sourced from 4,000 partnerships, which the company says it has forged with both state-owned and independent media organisations, including Xinhua and Caixin.         今日头条的中文新闻、评论和视频来自4000家合作伙伴。据该公司称,这些合作伙伴既有国有媒体,也有独立媒体,例如新华社和财新。
        Sina Weibo, one of China’s largest social media platforms, invested $100m in Toutiao in 2014 and now publishes non-news content by verified bloggers directly to Toutiao’s app.        2014年,中国最大的社交媒体平台新浪微博向今日头条投资1亿美元,如今,可直接在今日头条应用上发布来自微博认证博主的非新闻内容。
        To beef up its news-sorting algorithms, Toutiao has aggressively poached engineering talent. In February, it hired Ma Wei-Ying, the former assistant managing director of Microsoft Research Asia, to lead its AI Lab.        为了增强自己的新闻排序算法,今日头条一直在积极挖技术人才。今年2月,微软亚洲研究院(Microsoft Research Asia)常务副院长马维英加盟今日头条,执掌其人工智能实验室。
        Yet some of Toutiao’s investors have expressed concern over how solely providing content can sustain long-term growth.        但对于仅凭提供内容如何能维持长期增长,今日头条的一些投资者表示了担忧。
        “We are still undecided about ‘new media’ firms. They build audience and popularity through third-party mega-platforms but are not really building something on their own. They are dependent on the mega-platform,” said Anita Huang, a managing partner at Beijing-based Sinovation Ventures.        总部位于北京的创新工场(Sinovation Ventures)运营合伙人黃蕙雯(Anita Huang)表示:“对于‘新媒体’公司我们仍有些犹豫。这些公司通过第三方大平台来构建受众和人气,但并不是真正靠自己。他们依赖大平台。”
        Nearly all of Toutiao’s revenue comes from advertising. The company said it earned Rmb6bn ($869m) last year from in-app advertisements and aims to increase that to Rmb10bn by 2020.         今日头条几乎全部营收都来自广告。该公司称,去年通过应用内广告创收60亿元人民币(合8.69亿美元),力求到2020年提升至100亿元人民币。
        “The value of Toutiao is indeed overestimated for a platform without original content,” wrote Zhang Luoyang, a prominent online tech commentator. “Toutiao’s 600m user base has pretty much found all of China’s 680m internet users. To make only Rmb6bn in advertisements, despite having so many users, means its margins are extremely low and dependent on one source, so it must create more value within its own services.”        知名在线科技评论员张洛阳撰文表示,“作为一个没有原创内容的平台,今日头条确实被高估了。今日头条6亿用户已逼近中国6.8亿网民的总量。如此多用户只贡献了60亿元人民币的广告费,说明其利润率极低,且创收来源单一。因此,它必须挖掘自己的服务,创造更多价值。”
        That has prompted Toutiao to seek additional sources of revenue abroad and to explore other service areas.        这促使今日头条去海外寻找其他营收渠道,并开发其他服务领域。
        In February, it bought Los Angeles-based video app Flipagram, an Instagram rival, for an undisclosed amount, and has taken controlling stakes in several Indonesian and Indian media apps. A partnership with Chinese ecommerce platform JD.com enables users to browse and purchase directly JD.com products featured within the Toutiao app.        今年2月,今日头条收购了Instagram的竞争对手、总部位于洛杉矶的视频应用Flipagram(收购金额未对外披露),还买下数款印尼和印度媒体应用的控股股份。此外,公司还与中国电商平台京东(JD.com)进行合作,让用户可直接在今日头条应用里浏览并购买京东商品。
        Toutiao also has made a big push into hosting user-created content. Last year, it said it would invest $1bn in video streaming and now allows anyone to set up a channel on Toutiao to post non-news content.        今日头条还开始大举发力用户原创内容领域。去年,该公司称将向视频流业务投资10亿美元。现在任何人都可以在今日头条上开设频道,发布非新闻内容。
        Meanwhile, media professionals and investors worry that Toutiao could encounter the problems of algorithm bias and fake news that have entangled social media platforms such as Facebook. Toutiao employs “human intelligence” teams to screen for dubious content and refine its algorithms but analysts say a personalised news source runs the danger of becoming too narrow.        与此同时,媒体专业人士和投资者担心,今日头条会遇到一直困扰着Facebook等社交媒体平台的算法偏差和假新闻等问题。今日头条组建了多个“人类智能”团队来筛查可疑内容,并改进算法,但分析师们表示,个性化新闻存在着新闻来源变得太窄的风险。
        Lou Meijing, an analyst at iiMedia, a Beijing media consultancy group, said: “There is this problem of creating a filter bubble from a news source based on an algorithm and what our friends recommend, so that what we read further creates an even more subjective, more biased stream of information.”        北京媒体咨询集团艾媒网(iiMedia)分析师娄梅静表示:“要当心一个问题,这种基于算法和朋友推荐的新闻来源会形成一个‘过滤泡沫’,我们的阅读历史会导致推送的信息更加主观、更有偏见。”
                
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