Toutiao, the operator of China’s largest news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, is tapping into the paid-content space, seeking to get a slice of the rapid growing pie.
The Beijing-based company has launched a dedicated learning app dubbed Haohao Xuexi (好好学习), or “Study Well” in Mandarin, according to KrASIA parent company 36Kr (link in Chinese), a Chinese biztech media. The company was previously reported to be setting up a partial paywall to content on its news aggregator.
Haohao Xuexi provides a wide range of content covering career advice, parenting, culture, wealth management, and audio books. The app targets at young professionals, startup entrepreneurs, while also catering to the tastes of parents and college students. Users can buy e-courses which cost normally lower than 100 yuan (US$15.11) each or pay a 38 yuan (US$5.7) monthly fees to gain access to different content.
The move comes as Toutiao seeks to diversify its revenue streams. Highly dependent on revenue generated from ads, the company might seek alternative revenue streams to achieve its 50 billion yuan (US$7.6 billion) revenue target by the end of this year.
But the company is recently facing hurdles in doing so. Its popular short video-streaming app Douyin was told to cease commercial operations after falling foul of Chinese authorities due to its ads on search engine Sogou which made fun of a Chinese war hero. Douyin, known as Tik Tok overseas, is one of China’s most popular short video and music video apps that boasts of more than 30 million monthly active users.
The market size for paid content in China has reached US$738.9 million (4.91 billion yuan) in 2017 and is expected to grow to US$3.5 billion (23.51 billion yuan) by 2020, according to consulting firm iResearch. Haohao Xuexi is going to compete with other learning apps such as Dedao, which has 17 million users and has generated a claimed aggregated revenue of 140.9 million yuan ($21 million) in February last year.
Apart from dedicated paid written content apps, the lucrative market has also attracted giant-backed audio platforms such as China Literature-backed Ximalaya FM and Baidu-invested Qingting FM.
Zhihu, the Chinese version of Quora and the rival of Toutiao’s Q&A subsidiary Wukong Wenda, has also kicked off several paid-content features starting from 2016 including paid e-courses. Toutiao’s foray into the paid-content market is likely to up its rivalry with Zhihu. The news aggregator was said to have poached over 300 KOLs from Zhihu to beef up its content last year.
Edited by Yee Kai