When Advertising Isn't Enough | Summary and Q&A

December 5, 2018
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When Advertising Isn't Enough


Chinese internet companies have diversified their revenue streams, combining advertising and transactions, resulting in better product experiences and long-term growth.

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Key Insights

  • 🫠 Companies should consider diversifying their revenue streams to adapt to changing consumer behavior and avoid overwhelming users with ads or subscriptions.
  • 👨‍💼 Merging advertising and transactions can create a powerful business model, providing seamless one-click transactions and engaging content.
  • 🫠 Platforms in China offer more information to users before making a purchase, such as reading half a book for free or watching six minutes of a movie, leading to better decision-making.
  • 👤 Chinese platforms prioritize social engagement, gamification, and lifestyle experiences in content consumption, resulting in increased revenue and user satisfaction.


imagine how many ads you've seen in the last 24 hours how many ads have you scrolled through or maybe ignored in your Instagram and your Facebook feed now imagine if those ads were capped to just two or maybe three per day how would that change how you feel about the product or think imagine how many subscriptions are you signed up for for a monthl... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How have Chinese internet companies diversified their revenue streams?

Chinese internet companies have combined advertising and transactions, allowing ads to become one-click transactions, and providing engaging content to lower customer acquisition costs.

Q: Why is it important for companies to diversify their revenue streams?

Diversifying revenue streams is crucial because consumer behavior changes, and ads can become ineffective or annoying. Additionally, consumers may question paying for subscriptions when they know exactly what they want to buy.

Q: How can merging advertising and transactions create a powerful business model?

Merging advertising and transactions allows ads to become seamless one-click transactions, making it easier for consumers to purchase what they want. It also provides transaction-oriented companies with engaging content that lowers customer acquisition costs.

Q: How do Chinese business models differ from those in the US?

Chinese business models prioritize revenue from payments and FinTech, gaming, and video live streaming, with advertising playing a smaller role. In contrast, many US companies heavily rely on advertising or subscriptions for revenue.


This video discusses the differences in business models between Chinese and American consumer internet companies. It highlights how Chinese companies have diversified their revenue streams, resulting in better product experiences. The video provides examples of revenue diversification in various industries, including books, podcasts, video streaming services, and the music industry. It also explores how some American companies, like Amazon, YouTube, Instagram, and BuzzFeed, are starting to shift towards diversified revenue models. The speaker emphasizes the importance of diversifying revenue streams and the potential for improved customer experiences when combining advertising and transactions.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the current state of affairs in the American consumer internet space?

Many American products and companies in the consumer internet space fall into one of two categories: advertising-driven or focused on transactions and subscriptions. This categorization dominates their product thinking and revenue models.

Q: What percentage of Facebook's revenue comes from advertising?

Facebook generates 98.5% of its revenue from advertising. This heavy reliance on advertising raises the question of whether it is the best approach for long-term growth and consumer experiences.

Q: What are the defensive reasons for diversifying revenue streams?

One defensive reason for diversifying revenue streams is that consumer behavior changes over time. Eventually, consumers may become less receptive to ads or may question the need for ongoing subscriptions. Diversifying revenue can anticipate such changes and prevent a decline in effectiveness or consumer satisfaction.

Q: How can merging advertising and transactions create a powerful business model?

By merging advertising and transactions, companies can create a powerful model where ads become one-click transactions. This approach offers convenience to consumers and streamlines the process of purchasing products or services.

Q: What is the revenue distribution for $0.10, a successful Chinese consumer Internet company?

$0.10, the company behind WeChat, has a revenue distribution with less than 20% from advertising. The majority of its revenue comes from payments and FinTech (over 20%), gaming (over a third), and video live streaming (around a quarter).

Q: How many ads does $0.10's WeChat show per day on their equivalent of Facebook newsfeed?

WeChat caps the number of ads shown on its Moments feature, which is similar to Facebook's newsfeed, to just two per day. This compares to the heavy influx of ads seen on Facebook, making WeChat's user experience much more limited and enjoyable.

Q: How did China's mobile-first and mobile-only environment shape their business models?

China's mobile-first and mobile-only environment, influenced by limited access to PCs and credit cards, prompted Chinese companies to develop unique business models. They had to adapt their products to fit smaller screens and provide seamless mobile experiences, leading to the exploration of different revenue streams outside traditional advertising models.

Q: How do Chinese platforms enable users to buy books differently from Western platforms like Amazon?

In China, users can buy books by the chapter or even by every thousand characters. Some books offer the option to tip the author, making even free books a monetizable opportunity. Chinese platforms also combine self-published and big author books, providing opportunities for up-and-coming authors to gain distribution.

Q: How is the podcast market in China different from the U.S.?

In China, the podcast market is estimated to be worth between three to five billion dollars, while in the U.S., it was only 314 million dollars in 2018. The difference lies in the business models used in China, where consumers pay for podcasts either through direct tipping or purchasing packages. This diversification allows podcasters of all sizes to make money and invest in better content.

Q: How do Chinese video streaming platforms enhance the ad experience compared to YouTube in the U.S.?

Chinese video streaming platforms incorporate smarter advertising by analyzing video content and providing targeted ads. However, they go beyond ads by offering additional features such as coupons, giveaways, merchandise purchases, and social networking within the app. This enriches the user experience and keeps them engaged.

Q: How do Chinese music platforms like QQ Music and Tencent Music transform music consumption compared to the U.S.?

Chinese music platforms offer more than just a subscription model or ad-supported free music. They allow listeners to support artists by tipping them directly. Users can also buy skins for the app, engage in social networking, buy concert tickets, and even purchase merchandise while listening to music. It transforms music from a consumption product to a lifestyle experience with multiple revenue streams.


The video highlights the importance of diversifying revenue streams for long-term growth and better consumer experiences. By studying Chinese consumer internet companies, there are insights and inspiration for evolving business models in the U.S. and other markets. Integrating advertising and transactions can lead to powerful and compelling product experiences. As seen in the examples provided, diversification is not limited to one industry but can be applied across various sectors, such as books, podcasts, video streaming services, and the music industry. American companies like Amazon, YouTube, Instagram, and BuzzFeed are also starting to explore new revenue streams beyond traditional advertising. Revenue diversification serves as a product strategy, aligning incentives and giving customers more control over their experiences.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Chinese internet companies have taken on drastically different business models, combining advertising and transactions, resulting in better product experiences.

  • China's consumer internet companies have revenue distributions that prioritize payments and FinTech, gaming, video live streaming, and advertising at less than 20%.

  • By studying China's business models, companies can gain inspiration and insights to evolve their own models for better product experiences.

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