News aggregator Jinri Toutiao is mulling over the possibility of allowing content creators to charge readers a fee.
The popular app has been testing a function that would allow content creators to put articles behind a paywall, reported Guangzhou-based tech news outlet ifanr on Monday. Toutiao confirmed the news to Sixth Tone but did not say when the function would become available to the public.
Toutiao’s potential move to enable subscriber-only content could make it more attractive to digital media makers. While many Western publications have introduced a paywall to salvage their declining revenue, few Chinese news outlets have tried the subscription model. But as print media gives way to digital, many Chinese journalists have left traditional press outlets for social media platforms, hoping to attract more readers and experiment with different ways to monetize content.
This form of content creation is called “WeMedia,” though it has expanded beyond blogs hosted on social media platforms Weibo and WeChat to encompass audio lessons, short videos, livestreaming, and other media on a range of platforms created by big internet companies. Producers share a wide range of content — from journalism to fiction, career tips to relationship advice — with their fans, and then give a share of their income to the platforms.
According to iResearch Consulting Group, China’s market for online paid knowledge is expected to be worth 23.5 billion yuan ($3.5 billion) in 2020, nearly five times its value in 2017.
Toutiao’s major competitor, WeChat, a social app owned by internet behemoth Tencent, already allows users to make a “donation” to the author of a blog post on the platform after reading it. Tencent’s founder, Pony Ma, said in February 2017 that the company was also developing a feature where readers would have to pay first to unlock an article.
Editor: Qian Jinghua.
(Header image: A Toutiao user checks the news aggregator’s mobile app on his smartphone in Jinan, Shandong province, July 21, 2014. IC)