On­line gi­ants tap into new mar­ket

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By HE WEI

Ma­jor Chi­nese in­ter­net play­ers are pumping mil­lions of dol­lars into build­ing “knowl­edge­shar­ing” plat­forms.

They are all scram­bling to en­tice a new breed of on­line user that is ea­ger to learn, or be en­ter­tained, and is will­ing to pay for the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Ten­cent Hold­ings Ltd has con­firmed it will help “con­tent cre­ators” cash in on in­ter­net ma­te­rial via sub­scrip­tion fees on WeChat, the coun­try’s most pop­u­lar so­cial me­dia app with more than 900 mil­lion ac­tive users.

Since Fe­bru­ary, trial in­vi­ta­tions have been sent to cer­tain WeChat ac­counts to test the func­tion for paid con­tent. In fact, this is the app’s lat­est at­tempt to steer its vast user base to­ward the so-called “Paid Knowl­edge Era” in China.

Al­ready it has in­tro­duced the “Mangzhong 2.0” project, a 200 mil­lion yuan (29.4 mil­lion) fund, which helps sub­si­dize free­lancers and in­di­vid­ual con­trib­u­tors that up­load orig­i­nal, high-qual­ity con­tent on Ten­cent-backed plat­forms.

“Con­tent is go­ing to be­come the next traf­fic in­let and Ten­cent will try to es­tab­lish a lead­ing po­si­tion in the mar­ket­place, with the in­tro­duc­tion of paid con­tent in its WeChat ac­counts,” said Neil Wang, pres­i­dent for con­sul­tancy at Frost & Sul­li­van Greater China.

Alibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd is also mak­ing sim­i­lar moves over­seas.

Ear­lier this year, the in­ter­net gi­ant rolled out We Me­dia Re­ward Plan 2, an In­dia-based con­tent plat­form.

“This falls un­der Alibaba Dig­i­tal Me­dia and En­ter­tain­ment Group’s tar­geted in­vest­ment of $7.2 bil­lion in con­tent dur­ing the next three years,” said He Xiaopeng, pres­i­dent of Alibaba’s Mo­bile Business Group.

Un­der a pre­vi­ous plan, up to 1,000 con­tent writ­ers were re­cruited in In­dia and In­done­sia. They were paid at least $774 per month through the UC News plat­form, which is part­ly­owned by Alibaba.

Sina Weibo, which is China’s an­swer to Twit­ter, also launched a paid sub­scrip­tion fea­ture in De­cem­ber known as Weibo Ask.

Users can get the an­swers to an en­cy­clo­pe­dia full of ques­tions for a slid­ing-scale fee.

This trend to­ward paid con­tent is gath­er­ing pace.

Roughly 55 per­cent of the 1,700 on­line con­sumers sur­veyed by the re­search di­vi­sion of Ten­cent said they had paid for ex­pert knowl­edge and in­sight.

“Three quar­ters of users were will­ing to pay for qual­ity con­tent, while 52 per­cent be­lieved high-qual­ity con­tent providers de­served to be paid,” a joint poll on in­ter­net users by Guokr.com, a Chi­nese sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy news site, and in­ter­net firm Netease Inc re­ported.

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