Why TikTok Succeeded & Quibi Failed

TikTok didn’t come out of nowhere: The trend with short-form videos began in 2012 with Vine. Vine was shut down in 2016 due to the inability to successfully monetize the project. It was replaced by Musica.ly in 2018, which we all know today as TikTok.

With TikTok’s success, dozens of companies have tried to enter the short video arena. One of those companies was Quibi.

In the beginning, Quibi seemed like a perfect formula: Hollywood production quality mixed with the exploding trend of quick bite-sized videos. (Quibi’s name is a shortened version of “quick bites.”)

Yet the company was shut down six months after it went live.

Why?

It’s all about entertainment. And the reasons why Quibi failed are the same reasons why TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram Stories thrive.

Quibi has limited entertainment value

Entertainment value = production value + social value

Where:

  • Production value = The objective level of quality of the content for a genre. For instance, a Marvel movie has the highest production value for a movie.
  • Social value = The level of personal connection the viewer has with the content. Content created by your friends has high social value.

Here are some examples:

Snapchat – Low production value, but high social value. The selfie of your good friend with a dog filter doesn’t have much production value. But it’s funny to you.

Instagram – Socially relevant content, with higher production value than the typical Snapchat. Instagram has a consumer-first approach. Users tend to only share “Instagram-worthy” content. But we mostly follow our friends and creators relevant to us.

TikTok – High quality and high social value. TikTok’s For You algorithm serves up a stream of content that is relevant and high quality. And the Following feed is driven by the user’s social value. They follow what’s more relevant to them.

What’s the problem with Quibi?

It’s not optimized for the social angle. Quibi was a solitary experience. Their shows were designed to be watched by a single individual.

They optimized for the production value. But there are tons of streaming services competing these days and it’s hard for a pure-play streaming production product to break in successfully.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but the project would have been better suited to making their content more shareable, make the audience part of the creative process, and make the app feel more alive.

In other words, it should have looked more like a social network.

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