In 2019, TikTok and Douyin (the version of it that operates only in China) earned $176.9 million–a figure that’s more than five times what they made in 2018, according to app analytics firm Sensor Tower.
Q4 2019 was the apps’ highest-earning quarter ever, with $88.5 million coming in. For comparison, Snapchat’s last reported quarterly earnings were $446 million, and Instagram and WhatsApp parent Facebook’s were $17.7 billion, both in Q3 2019.
2019 also saw an uptick in number of TikTok/Douyin downloads: 738 million, 13% more than 2018 and enough to push them past an all-time global total of 1.65 billion installs. It was the second most downloaded app from both the App Store and Google Play, beaten out only by WhatsApp’s 849 million installs.
Sensor Tower credits the revenue and download increases to China and India, respectively. As we previously reported, the big difference between Douyin and TikTok is monetization: Douyin has a thriving ecommerce sector driven by the popularity of “social shopping” (buying products directly from social media) in Asia, whereas TikTok is still struggling to establish meaningful monetization for itself and creators.
With this in mind, it’s not shocking that Douyin and Chinese consumers are reportedly responsible for $122.9 of the $176.9 million. TikTok, meanwhile, earned its biggest chunk of change, $36 million, from the U.S. Its second-biggest contributor was the U.K., with a much smaller $4.2 million.
As for downloads, the Indian market has become a massive consumer of digital content thanks to the increasing prevalence of smartphones. YouTube, Netflix, Spotify, and TikTok have all rolled out to India within the last couple of years, and even though TikTok was briefly banned by Indian lawmakers who called it “inimical to law and order,” it was still downloaded more than 323 million times by Indian consumers, 44% of the year’s global total.
As TechCrunch points out, TikTok has been trying to monetize its Western audience by introducing in-feed ads, hashtag challenges, and lenses a la Snapchat. It’s also attempted to get Douyin’s popular social shopping features to catch on by letting some users add buy links to their bio and videos. But one of its biggest monetization issues is apparently the fact that it doesn’t collect much personal information about its users. As a result, it can’t target ads, so brands are forgoing ads on the platform and choosing to work with creators instead, per TC.
In the short term, that could be a good thing for creators. The majority who’ve made money on TikTok have done so through brand deals or, in the case of a select few, through a limited (as in, only creators picked by TikTok can use it) feature where viewers are able to tip them during livestreams. But in the long term, it could send TikTok the way of Vine.