Traffic “left-handed to right-handed”, intensive introduction of executives: the old problems and new roads of Baidu App

It has been more than a year since Shen Ji took over Baidu’s mobile ecosystem. He seldom spoke out, and the mobile ecosystem’s business seemed very quiet. Until recently, the new and old businesses gradually figured out their own positioning and direction.“Servicization” is the three most frequently mentioned words when talking about Baidu’s mobile ecological direction at the Baidu 2020 World Conference held on the 15th.

Author | Song Wanxin

Edit | Yang Jin

At the Mobile Ecology Conference in May, Shen also said to the outside world that “linking people and services” is the main task of Baidu’s mobile ecology in the second half of 2020.

For Baidu, which started in search, “linking people and information” has been a long-standing idea, but in the era of mobile Internet, it is inevitable to change this concept. At the same time, “servitization” has also been since Baidu reorganized search last year. One of the most core strategies.

Baidu upgraded its search company to the Mobile Ecological Business Group (MEG) in May last year, and Shen Shao became the new head. After that, the company “scraped the bones and healed” the search business, trying to catch up with the mobile ecological process based on the existing search advantages. Among them, Baidu App has become an important carrier for Baidu’s information flow and search business on the mobile side, while smart applets and Baijiahao are the two pillars of the mobile ecosystem.

“In the field of mini programs, WeChat is undoubtedly the first, but in the past year, Baidu mini programs are the fastest growing. Smart mini programs have reached 500 million monthly activities.” Baidu App general manager Ping Xiaoli told Sohu Inc. Media including technology.

In recent years, Baidu App has maintained steady growth in terms of users. Daily active users have been higher than today’s headlines. Baidu’s second-quarter financial report shows that Baidu App’s daily active users reached 204 million in June 2020, adding 16 million users in the past 12 months. The monthly active users of Baidu’s smart applet reached 339 million, a year-on-year increase of 25%.

However, in addition to user achievements, Baidu MEG currently has few other highlights. Robin Li called Baidu’s “year of change” last year. In the past year, there have been few changes in the mobile ecosystem that can be perceived by the outside world. However, it is undeniable that Baidu is undergoing drastic changes. It is only the internal business and structural adjustments. It will take time to reach the commercial and user levels.

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Senior Vice President of Baidu

Accelerate the expansion of content ecology

Tao Peng has recently resigned from Baidu, but he has joined Baidu since his internship. He still has feelings about the company. He just feels weak when talking about the company’s current situation.

Five years ago, he joined Baidu Fengchao, responsible for advertising algorithms. Fengchao is a search promotion system launched by Baidu in 2009, replacing the original bidding ranking system, and launched the largest upgrade in 2011, claiming to have tripled its efficiency. In 2013, Baidu launched the wireless Phoenix Nest to deploy the mobile Internet.

In the first three years of its launch, Fengchao has gained a lot of attention and expectations in the market. However, with the rise of algorithmic information flow led by headlines, Fengchao has gradually disappeared. It has been difficult to see the development of Fengchao in recent years. Tao Peng told Sohu Technology that in the past year, the Fengchao team had a large turnover.

In May last year, Shen Zhu took full charge of Baidu’s mobile ecology and reorganized Baidu search and its commercialization system, including the reform of personnel structure. First of all, Shen Dou established the core of “search” as the foundation of his life, thereby extending content information outwards and forming a luxuriant content distribution system. What can be seen is that since the beginning of this year, Baidu has made frequent actions in filling diversified content.

In April of this year, the Baidu APP launched the “Service Center” applet on Android and iOS. You can enter by pulling down the home page of the App. The “service center” includes 9 fixed first-level entrances such as medical and health care, express delivery services, and covers three sectors: convenient living, eating, drinking and playing, and traveling. This means that Baidu has begun to regain its “local life” business.

On May 15th, Robin Li appeared in the live broadcast room of Baidu APP and contributed his live broadcast debut. On the eve of 618, Baidu launched the “618” channel to access the supply chain, logistics and after-sales system of JD Commodity Pool. And in the same period, Baidu has completed the strategic investment settlements that are praised by e-commerce SaaS companies, and the strategic investment consumer product rankings have been ranked.

At this year’s Baidu Mobile Ecological Conference, Baidu announced three major plans for Baidu App in 2020. These three plans specifically include: Baidu’s Baijia No. “Baichuan Project”, 50 billion traffic to fully promote the rapid growth of creators, as well as creative camps for explosive models, fan growth rights packages, MCN exclusive plans, etc.; Baidu live broadcast launch The “Energy Program” used a subsidy of 500 million yuan to create a thousand celebrity anchors; the Smart Mini Program launched the “Creative Mini Program Star-Making Program”, aiming to create 100 creative Mini Programs with over 100,000 MAUs.

In addition to Baijiahao, live broadcasts and smart applets, Baidu are all late entrants, and they are still in the stage of completing the initial accumulation. Baidu has also conveyed its determination to focus on development, and the importance of these three is undoubtedly Both serve the content ecology of search.

Ping Xiaoli gave an example in the interview. Previously, when searching for “Movie “Eight Bai”” on Baidu App, only content such as movie introductions and film reviews would appear. Now, the ticket purchase applet will also appear in the search results. “The two keywords of Baidu’s mobile ecosystem are video and service, the first corresponding media form of video and live broadcast, and the mini program is the most open ecosystem that carries the service strategy.”

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Ping Xiaoli, Vice President of Baidu, General Manager of Baidu App

The transformation crisis of 200 million daily activities

In a horizontal comparison, in terms of daily active users and monthly active users, Baidu APP ranks first among similar information flow products. The 200 million daily active performance also allows Baidu App to enter the Super App Club.

However, there are differences in the number of users growth and revenue growth trends. Baidu’s second-quarter financial report pointed out that Baidu App’s internal hosting pages accounted for 30% of its core business online marketing revenue, but did not disclose its core business’s online marketing revenue and Baidu App advertising revenue. From the perspective of overall online marketing revenue trends, although Baidu App daily active users have grown steadily, they have not contributed a corresponding level of advertising revenue.

Robin Li responded to analysts in the first quarterly conference call: “Baidu’s increase in the number of users contributes to revenue growth is a gradual process. We need to make a lot of efforts in the process, and we are actually advancing. We are focusing on In terms of user and customer management. The conversion rate will continue to increase, so customers are also willing to pay more.”

Tao Peng told Sohu Technology that most of the increase in Baidu App traffic was the result of “left-handed over right-handed”, that is, diversion from the Wap (mobile web version) side. The total search traffic has not increased, and even in recent years it has not been much. Increase.

Sohu Technology has noticed that since last year, many netizens have reported on various platforms that when searching for content on Baidu WAP and opening the full text, they are required to download Baidu App, otherwise they cannot view more content. This phenomenon is known in Baidu, The search content of Baidu Tieba has appeared in the search content, which explains to a certain extent the reason why Baidu App increases users but does not increase revenue.

“Commercialization relies on user products, and user products determine the ceiling of commercialization. Traffic segmentation is the development trend, and search needs become current. For commercials with commercial value, why not go to Taobao.” Tao Peng said.

Reaching users more accurately has always been the number one appeal of advertisers. From this point of view, Bytedance has accumulated a large amount of user data through information flow algorithms, such as tags that each user has based on their interests. These data are deposited in its data center and can now be directly reused in search advertising.

In August last year, Toutiao officially launched its search function. A person familiar with the matter said that it is different from Baidu’s bidding logic. In Toutiao, the higher the price, the higher the matching degree for your ads, which means that you are targeted on this topic. Interested users are more likely to get it. The accumulation of bytes in the information flow algorithm can be released in search.

Since 2012, Toutiao’s information flow ads have eroded the advertising market, and Baidu cannot but feel anxious. At the end of 2017, Baidu App (then called Mobile Baidu) established a dual-engine strategy of “search + information flow”. At that time, Toutiao’s revenue had reached 15 billion yuan.

Baidu continues to increase its investment in content, which is reflected in the information flow business and short video and live broadcast business of Baidu App. Headlines, known for their news and short videos, have also entered the search. The two sides continued to penetrate into each other’s hinterland, and “the more they fought, the more resembling each other.” Speed ​​became a key factor in the process of close combat.

But Baidu is not the only rival that makes Baidu nervous. Recently, WeChat has launched a search function in the dialog box. Users can long press the chat content to “search and search” with one click. The WeChat search function has further penetrated into social relationships. In August, Tencent even offered Sogou a privatization invitation. For a while, the search track, which had been silent for a long time, was surging again.

For WeChat, the first to launch mini programs, it is imperative to supplement the basic search capabilities after the number of mini programs and ecology reaches a certain size. Once the search capabilities are perfect, the development and commercialization value of WeChat mini programs will further increase . There is not much time left for search boss Baidu.

Based on the differences in product background and genes, several platforms currently developing small programs show certain industry differences in services. According to the latest report from Questmobile, as of June 2020, WeChat has the highest proportion of life service applets, reaching 34%. The same is true for Alipay applets, the proportion is as high as 42%, and Baidu smart applets have the highest proportion. The mobile video category still accounts for only 16% of the life service category. That is to say, the user’s habit of seeking services through Baidu’s smart applet has not yet been cultivated, content and information acquisition are still the main demands, product application scenarios and product users are low The degree of demand affects the development of life service mini programs.

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Ping Xiaoli said that the current Baidu users’ awareness of Baidu is indeed still in the search information part. Baidu’s brand awareness is very strong, but the awareness of Baidu App search service is not enough. She confessed that it will strengthen market promotion and users in the future. Educational work, especially in the new era, needs to be promoted in conjunction with events.

As for the process of Baidu App user growth contributing to revenue, Ping Xiaoli told Sohu Technology that this is indeed a competitive problem in the online advertising business that Baidu is now facing. But she attributed this to the impact of the epidemic on the advertising industry, especially considering that Baidu searches more services for small and medium-sized entities, and their own businesses suffer greater losses due to the epidemic.

Regarding mini programs, she admitted that commercialization still needs to be improved, especially the e-commerce mini programs of the business operation model. She said that now the team has found a way to increase the commercial value of this part, but it needs to be replicated in various industries on a large scale.

Intensive introduction of executives, refocusing knowledge

Since the beginning of this year, according to the needs of the expansion of the content system, Baidu’s mobile ecosystem has also undergone substantial structural adjustments, including the introduction of several senior executives.

In June, Baidu’s mobile ecological business group completed the construction of the live broadcast platform and formed an independent team. The person in charge is the former Huya founder Gu Feng. In September, Song Jian, the former head of Watermelon Video, joined Baidu as the general manager of Haokan Video. In addition, 36氪 Vice President Zhang Zhuo also joined Baidu, responsible for the content operation and ecological construction of Baidu App news, finance, technology, entertainment and sports.

Shen said before: “As far as the competitive environment is concerned, competitors have obtained a lot of traffic through short videos. This is a challenge, but what we have to do is to further expand the user base through Baidu APP and video business, and we It also has the potential to improve liquidity.”

Previously, Haokan Video announced that in 2019, the number of daily active users of its independent APP exceeded 30 million, and it has attracted 800,000 media organizations and PUGC creators.

An insider of Baidu Goodview Video told Sohu that the team has expanded rapidly in recent months. At present, there are 112 people in total. In order to increase the number of creators, they will go to other platforms to dig corners and the video of text creators, of which the former accounted for more Many, each operation and customer service has a job index for the creator of the corner, the main goal is the Douyin, Kuaishou platform.

In the early stage of its launch, Haokan Video acquired a large number of traffic and users through its embedding in Baidu App, but the support of Baidu App was ultimately no match for the rise of Douyin and Kuaishou apps. After Song Jian joined, he will differentiate the good-looking video on the knowledge-based short video platform born in the 70s and 80s, and the first step to enrich the content is to recruit enough and high-quality creators.

The live broadcast business is also the focus of this year’s mobile ecology. Data shows that Baidu Live currently covers more than 100 million users per month, with traffic increasing by 200% month-on-month, and the average daily broadcast volume increasing by 500% month-on-month.

Similar to short video positioning, Baidu Live also focuses on pan-knowledge live broadcasts. Ping Xiaoli said that in the process of obtaining information, many needs of users cannot be well met through graphics and videos, such as real-time Q&A and online consultation. And the need for interaction, live broadcast is a very good carrier.

Under the new thinking, Baidu has regained its once-abandoned knowledge content business. The establishment of this positioning is in line with the current market content trend. The “2020 China Online Knowledge Questions and Answers Industry White Paper” released by iResearch pointed out that in 2020, China’s pan-knowledge content industry has grown into a market of hundreds of billions. Among them, search encyclopedias and online knowledge questions and answers have significantly higher user penetration rates. The proportion of usage exceeds 80%.

In addition, the movement of the old opponent’s Bytedance can also explain the problem from the side. Whether it is to reverse the negative image of “the Douyin algorithm is too catering to the weakness of human nature” or to find new growth points, Douyin has recently used a variety of methods to convey its own knowledge content attributes.

At the DOU Creators Conference at the end of last year, Zhang Yu, the vice president of ByteDance, said on the spot that Douyin has now become a platform for inclusive knowledge, and this statement once caused controversy. In June of this year, Douyin cooperated with Chaos University in the “Divergence is the Creator” project, claiming to create a “Nationwide Knowledge Creation Camp”.

In some ways, meeting the opponent again is not a good thing, but at least it proves that the path is right.

Baidu Wenku and Baidu know that these content products that once had a glorious past were left behind yesterday, and Baidu, which has not found knowledge content mobile for a long time, finally sorted out after more than a year in Shen Dou. Clear positioning, and a path of its own knowledge and information ecology.

It’s just that all of this didn’t come in time, and the thinking that has been held back by search for too long has become a stubborn disease and it is not easy to get rid of it, but Baidu has no other choice.

(At the request of the interviewee, Tao Peng is a pseudonym)