Dance your way to ‘Foundering’ and learn about the TikTok story

Technology August 10, 2021
Listen to ‘Foundering’

The cultural phenomenon

From Bloomberg Business Storytelling comes “Foundering,” a podcast whose recent season explores the app, TikTok, and how it rose as a cultural phenomenon. Journalist Shelly Banjo hosts this series to reveal just what makes this app tick, tock, and rock for all ages, especially Generation Z.

TikTok is not just another social media app. It’s a hallmark of this generation. It thrives as a trendsetter, a space for creators, a home for influencers, and defines a new category of what it means to be a celebrity. In times of COVID-19, TikTok soared in popularity as a route of escapism. People flocked on the app to distract themselves with funny videos, learning trending dances, uploading content, and participating in the trends. What’s amazing about the app is the possibilities it holds for creators, and its influence on Gen-Z, as each episode elaborates.

TikTok’s history

The podcast fills you in on the app’s full history. Chinese tech entrepreneur, Alex Zhu, speaks in the first episode. While Zhu previously created other apps, TikTok is his most successful venture to date. We learn that he was inspired to create a music-based app while sitting on a train in Silicon Valley. He saw kids listening to music and making videos on their phone and thought how cool it would be to incorporate the two in an app.

Incredibly enough, Zhu’s idea went from a thought to a deliverable app in less than a month. It began as an app called Zhu knew his target audience was teenagers. gained traction, caught investors’ attention, and became TikTok. Part 2 of the podcast also interviews the CEO of TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, and we learn about their business principles.

TikTok and the music industry

The music industry’s long-standing model for success has been shaken with TikTok. We hear about how the short-form video style caters to young users. When the app was first starting out, it would rip the 15-second iTunes song previews. In part 3, we hear how the company has learned how to work with the music industry rather than thwart it.

When using the app, creators don’t have to write their own songs, but many choose to share their originals. Users can create content using preexisting songs or clips other TikTokers have created. People upload lip-sync videos. You can duet your favorite users in a split-screen feature option. New songs can become hits. And older songs experience revivals when creators decide to feature them in their videos.

In July 2020, Donald Trump unsuccessfully tried to ban TikTok. Trump claimed the app was stealing users’ personal information and giving it to Beijing’s government. In the episodes, we hear about people who are earning money from TikTok, and Part 4 discusses the downsides of how unregulated TikTok can become, where issues arise for kids seeing questionable content.

Want to learn more about TikTok? Tune in to all parts of Bloomberg Business Storytelling’s “Foundering.”

Listen to ‘Foundering’

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