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The emerging trend of online paid content in China

Recently, I met a crowdfunding expert named Manzheng Kim in a restaurant. He is a registered master on Zaihang, a leading knowledge and skill sharing platform as written on the app’s description.

Kim was a very good mentor and shared a lot of useful information during our one and a half hour meeting. We exchanged contacts on WeChat at the end of our meeting. Later, I posted a positive review and transferred the payment through the platform to finish the deal. The whole process took three days which included sourcing, initiating contact, making the appointment, scheduling, meeting, payment and review. And it is equivalent to the cost of one or two meals. How amazing!

Knowledge sharing platforms have always been an important media category. There are many long existing media platforms such as Baidu’s Wikipedia-like Baike; MBA Lib; Quora-like Q&A site Zhihu; tech media outlet Guokr; and audio platforms such as Ximalaya. Most of these knowledge sharing platforms have one thing in common with Wikipedia – it provides free information for a large group of users, but its returns are very minimal. Fortunately, this is beginning to change.

Descriptions and fees for consultations with the masters. Screenshot from Zaihang website.

Content payment is becoming acceptable for two main reasons. The first being an information overload. We are receiving news every few minutes, and “moments” on WeChat are constantly posted on our feeds. Cheap and time-wasting information continuously bore us and sometimes make us feel anxious. Never before has good content revealed its true value. Consumers now realize “cheapest is dearest”. Another reason is the top-down intellectual property revolution. The law bans internet piracy and free sharing of audio and video products. There was significant progress in this movement over the past 10 years.

2016 was the year for paid video content in China. According to the “2015 China Video Industry Payment Research Report” by YIEN, China’s effective payment user scale will reach 75 million with a 241% growth rate by the end of 2016.

The audio market will follow the same trend. Ximalaya, a paid audio content platform in China, works in a similar way as an Apple app store. Ximalaya launched its “123 Knowledge Festival” on Dec. 3 2016, and raked in RMB 50.88 million (USD 7.39 million) that day. During the day of the festival, popular television host Ma Dong’s “Good Communication” audio show brought in RMB 5.55 million,followed by Wubin Ye’s “Time management” at RMB 2.73 million and Liang Dong’s “Notes of Chuang Tzu” at RMB 2.19 million.

Leading knowledge sharing platforms Zhihu and Guokr both launched their new products aimed at knowledge monetization. According to Netease, Zhihu claims to have 60 million registered users by October 2016 with daily active users are as many 16 million. Zhihu (知乎 in Chinese) launched its audio Quora app called Zhihu (值乎 in Chinese). On the other hand, Guokr launched its audio Quora app called Fenda. Both apps received lots of attention and have been widely shared in social media.

Back to the start, why did I use that app and met a guy I did not know? I have just started to write a book on mobile marketing, and I wanted to write a chapter on mobile commerce which I was a total novice at. With just a few clicks on the Zaihang app, I was able to read the background of the masters, their experiences and accomplishments, cases and reviews. Remember that classic theory “Six degrees of separation”? It’s time to say no! We cannot connect with a celebrity or a master through our social media platforms, but some knowledge apps can! People are now just an app away. How exciting has it become!

(Top photo from

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