A recent survey by Chinese social media content ranking platform, New Rank, indicates that 1.42% of Chinese bloggers and independent content producers make over RMB one million (USD 156,000) per month, or two million USD every year. On the other side of the spectrum, the same survey also points out that 64% of Chinese bloggers barely approach RMB 10,000 (USD 1,562) a month in earnings.
AllChinaTech looks into the business model of the “We Media” phenomenon in China, to shed light on how people make money in China through blogging.
Who’s producing original content in China?
To begin with, you need to know who the content creators are in China and how they’re different from their counterparts in the U.S.
In China, bloggers and other independent content creators are normally referred to as “We Media”, a term created by American columnist Dan Gillmor to describe grassroots Internet-based journalists. The term never really caught on in the U.S. but caught fire instead in China, and is no longer limited to journalistic content. We Media in China refers to not only bloggers and independent content producers but also all kinds of internet celebrities and influencers.
Popular blogs or YouTube channels in the U.S. tend to have a more personal voice and are normally managed by individuals such as Brandon Stanton, who works alone on his phenomenal photography blog “Humans of New York”.
We Media operators in China don’t always work independently, sometimes there can be an entire company behind one single account. 23% of participants in New Rank’s survey say they’re working for corporations or organizations, which generally means a stronger demand for profit.
How does one make money with original content?
Though 24% of interviewees say they’re in We Media for fun, the majority are mostly out to seek profit. 49% of interviewees have already made a profit out of their We Media accounts and 36% make over RMB 10,000 a month, which covers most daily expenses for individual operators in China.
What are the ways in which Chinese We Media operators make money?
1) Embedded advertisements
Mainstream We Media platforms including WeChat public accounts and Weibo have advertisements placed in the platform. We Media operators can choose whether to enable the feature or not when they reach a certain readership, and have the opportunity to receive a percentage of the revenue from advertisements on the platform.
Due to WeChat’s huge user base, Tencent’s performance-based advertising system Guang Dian Tong is now the biggest revenue channel for We Media accounts in China. 35% of interviewees have benefitted from Guang Dian Tong and other embedded advertising platforms.
Writing advertorial for businesses is also a primary source of profit for Chinese We Media operators. However too much advertorial is a threat to readability, and many operators with strong content have switched to native ads: creating ads in the form of reader-friendly content.
For example, Mosspaca Studio, a comic group, draws customized comics for brands, creating thousands of shares and comments and millions of views with every advertisement.
3) Remuneration for articles
Currently one of the biggest We Media platforms, WeChat, has very strict rules on copyright protection. Accounts caught using content without authorization can be suspended or closed down, which pushes up remuneration for authors of original content.
Platforms such as WeChat, Weibo and Today’s Headlines have donation buttons at the end of posts. Readers can choose to donate if they like content. However, amounts tend to be relatively small and are unlikely to be a primary source of income for We Media operators.
Weibo has also launched a paywall function for accounts with over one million views. Readers need to pre-pay for posts before they can view content. Few account operators appear to have implemented this new function.
Some We Media operators launch e-commerce platforms after having established a huge fan base. One-man online video show, Logic Talk Show, is famous for its book reviews and Logic now works with publishers to sell customized books to its audience.
We Media accounts can also earn subsidies from platforms with signed partnerships. For example, the Alibaba-backed video streaming platform, Youku Tudou, has a Co-enjoy Project that offers professional content creators subsidies and investment in return for exclusive access.
Which platforms should you target?
Which platforms generate the most revenue in China right now?
With over 560 million monthly active users, WeChat is where you will see the most traffic.
Connected to Alibaba’s massive e-commerce platform, Weibo is the most user-friendly platform for interconnections with e-commerce platforms Taobao and Tmall.
Tou Tiao Hao (or Headlines)
Today’s Headlines is now the most popular news aggregator in China, giving great publicity to content on its We Media division Tou Tiao Hao.
Traffic from Baidu’s search engine undoubtedly boosts the readership of its We Media platforms and makes it one of the best choices.
Following Alibaba’s acquisition, Youku Tudou is now more capable of investing more in original content production. Projects launched since the acquisition indicate a strong willingness on the part of Youku Tudou to continue in this direction.