Content Distribution Remains At The Core Of Baidu’s Goal In 2017, Said Robin Li

摘要: On February 6th, Robin Li, chairman of Baidu Group, delivered an internal speech titled “Embracing the New Era: Content Distribution, Connection Service, Financial Innovation and Artificial Intelligence”. What did he say? What's Baidu's plan in 2017? Which sectors will Baidu focus its attention on?

(Chinese Version)

Robin Li, chairman and CEO of Baidu

Robin Li, chairman and CEO of Baidu

On February 6th, Robin Li, chairman of Baidu Group, delivered an internal speech titled “Embracing the New Era: Content Distribution, Connection Service, Financial Innovation and Artificial Intelligence”. In the speech, Robin stated that “the new year would witness a battle of the entire company”. He said so perhaps under the pressure of the public concern that Baidu has left behind among BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent), which used to be known as the three tech giants in China. According to him, to win this battle, Baidu has to concentrate on content distribution and develop every product as if fighting a war.

For Robin, text used to be the main form of the internet in the early stage. However, with the improvement of broadband environment, photos, videos and especially short videos have become the majority. “Fundamentally, content distribution remains at the core of Baidu's goal,” Robin maintained.

However, after the shift from the PC to the mobile internet, especially the advent of “Super APPs”, an increasing number of contents are being distributed through such APPs, including WeChat and Sina Weibo. Robin admitted that owing to the boom of social media and we media for the past year, Baidu, a company that relies mainly on search engine, faces “a pretty big challenge”.

“How to win back the content we used to distribute through Baidu’s various platforms, how to make it more convenient to have users acquire information via Baidu, how to fulfil our goal to have users acquire information on an equal basis?” Robin summarized Baidu’s goal in 2017.

Another crucial part of content distribution is data. For Robin, “data is way more important than algorithms”. As a matter of fact, data serves as a prerequisite for Baidu’s progress in the artificial intelligence field. “An adequate amount of data is needed to develop AI technology. The more valuable data you have, the more accurate the result will be,” Robin explained. In fact, Baidu has already noticed the importance of data when developing speech search function.

Therefore, Robin declared that Baidu would gradually shift from collecting keywords to knowledge users have searched. The stand out in the next era, Baidu has to match users’ real needs with the knowledge Baidu has already accumulated.

To some degree, Baidu even has embarked on a war against algorithm-based content recommendation platforms such as TouTiao. “How to distribute content to users who need or are interested in certain content more conveniently and efficiently? This could be both an opportunity and challenge for Baidu,” Robin said.

Besides content distribution, Robin maintained that the next era would also be about connection services. With China’s consumption upgrading in the next ten to fifteen years, such service will be of great demand. “The so-called connection service can’t be completely virtual, but it can be about connecting both online and offline, as long as paying behaviors are included,” Robin explained. Besides, Robin pointed out that what Baidu was going to do was distributing traffic from online to offline, so that Baidu would not only be distributing content, but also service. Some important questions can be solved through turning service into content, he maintained.

In terms of financial innovation, Robin pointed out that innovation over financial models, instead of financial scenarios and financial technologies (the core of the Finance 1.0 and 2.0 era) will be the core of Finance 3.0 era. However, Robin didn't reveal more details about Baidu’s plan in this sector.

Compared to Alibaba and Tencent, Baidu seems to attach higher importance to artificial intelligence. On January 17th, Baidu poached Lu Qi, a former senior executive from Microsoft, appointed him Baidu’s president and COO, and required head of all Baidu’s business divisions report to him directly. “Baidu has already listed artificial intelligence as the most important strategic direction for the next decade,” Robin said once.

In the internal speech, Robin also mentioned that Baidu’s opportunity lies in combining software and hardware in the artificial intelligence sector. For him, Amazon’s Echo succeeds because it is not merely a software, but is properly adjusted based on the hardware.

“Such hardware will bring new opportunity in the artificial intelligence sector,” Robin said. Unmanned driving is achieved not only through software, but is based on hardware such as radar and camera. Such combination of software and hardware would still be in dire need of in the near future, Robin predicted.

Robin also mentioned in his speech matters related to “The Wei Zexi Incident”, which drew much criticism against Baidu last year.

“At first, we thought to simple in the medical sector: we provide necessary information, while users will be able to find out where to see a doctor and get an appointment. However, since last year, we’ve realized that we could actually do something more and provide ‘smart medical consulting’ service. Were our smart medical consulting system to be as intelligence as a professional doctor, we would be able to replace doctors in making some basic diagnostics. If so, people will need to see a doctor only in case of severe illness,” Robin explained.

To achieve major breakthrough and bring about innovation in the four above-mentioned aspects, Robin believed that the corporate atmosphere had to be favorable. “For the past year, you might feel that we focus lots of attention on anti-corruption. This is actually part of our endeavor to create a favorable corporate environment at Baidu. To stand out in this ‘battle’, we have to spare unremitting efforts in such matters,” Robin said at last.

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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @TMTpost-Chinese, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]

Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.

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