Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.
The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.
Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.
This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.
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TikTok is ready for advertisers, e-commerce, it says
At TikTok’s online event, TikTok World, the company announced a range of new initiatives, product updates and advertising formats in an effort to woo more marketers to its platform. On the e-commerce front, TikTok expanded its set of shopping partners beyond pilot partner Shopify. Earlier this year, the video platform began piloting TikTok Shopping in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, in a deal that allowed Shopify merchants with a TikTok For Business account to add a Shopping tab to their TikTok profiles and sync their product catalogs to the app to create mini-storefronts. Now, TikTok is rolling out to new brand partners for TikTok Shopping, including Square, Ecwid and PrestaShop, with Wix, SHOPLINE, OpenCart and BASE coming soon. It also introduced a fuller slate of solutions for TikTok commerce, including ad products and later this year, a TikTok Shopping API. The app now offers a trio of in-feed ad products for online shopping: Collection Ads which feature swipeable and tappable product cards; Dynamic Showcase Ads (DSAs), which are automatically generated ads; and Lead Generation ads.
The company also presented its new plan to ramp up advertiser investment with a new promise of “brand safety” and the launch of several new and interactive ad formats, ranging from clickable stickers to “Choose Your Own Adventure”-type ads to “super likes” and more. The ads are meant to encourage TikTok users to tap, swipe and use gestures to interact with the ads’ content. There’s even an ad where users get to direct the storytelling, and a mini page that lets brands connect users with their message directly in the TikTok app.
To date, marketers haven’t carved out as much of their spending for TikTok compared with other major platforms, like Facebook and Instagram. But TikTok parent company ByteDance has been making inroads in the global ad market, with annual revenue across its apps more than doubling in 2020 to reach $34.3 billion. In the U.S., TikTok was expected to bring in $500 million in 2020, up from $200-$300 million in the year prior, according to a report by The Information. (Some of that is from in-app purchases, of course.)
As TikTok has scaled its ad business, its ad prices have been steadily increasing, too. Bloomberg noted this summer it was jacking up home page takeover ads, its most valuable real estate, to more than $2 million on top days — like holidays. Reuters…