After it had long been discussed, Tencent, the Chinese internet and mobile service giant, finally confirmed Yicai Global on Tuesday that it would roll out a paid content function for WeChat public accounts very soon in the future.
Just as an authority at Tencent stated, the basic function of this paid content feature has been completed, it’s time to open it to general users. He also revealed that Tencent would enable we media on WeChat platform to design and perfect the function themselves.
In fact, rumors circulated that a paid content function was being tested on selected public accounts earlier last year, but WeChat quickly responded to clarify that the paid content function was still being tested on an invitation-only basis, and was not yet available to all users. For now, the primary ways for official or business accounts on WeChat to earn revenue are posting ads and original content.
Earlier on 14th Feb, 2017, Hong Bo, a famous IT commentator, has posted an article on WeChat’s Moments, announcing his plan to charge for access to articles. The post soon got comment from Tencent’s Chairman and CEO Pony Ma that he should wait for WeChat’s paid content function. Pony Ma also responded to the question about the testing being too long, explaining that the problem had been fed back to the developer team and promising to step up the pace. In other words, Tencent was accelerating the development of WeChat’s paid content function for official accounts.
However, a large group of people are still questioning about whether WeChat’s paywall feature for articles is accepted since an overwhelming majority of Chinese have already been used to free online content.
As with the big changes in the consumption environment and the rapid development of paid content model, there are several new trends for monetizing knowledge.
According to a survey conducted by a Tencent research unit, 55 percent of 1,700 respondents have experience of paying for professional advice or knowledge, such as paid content and documents in the past year. And more than 50 percent of Chinese netizens reported to have paid or be willing to pay for contents. However, the figure was only 30 percent in an iResearch report made two years ago.
Another report on the Chinese paid knowledge industry shows that users’ attitude to paying for content and knowledge saw a big change in these years. They would prefer to spending money on quality content and services. At the same time, the way of getting information is also becoming more mature, from passively accepting to actively receiving information.
There is a popular knowledge-sharing app that is similar to Western Quora.com, called Zhihu. Readers on the platform are allowed to pose a question or answer queries from other readers. Last year, Zhihu has launched an online lecture room—Zhihu Live, which was designed to monetize knowledge and gained big success. Per capita consumption by users is RMB 52.08 and a one-hour lecture can bring speakers, who are usually specialists in their fields, an average fee of RMB 10,000.