China’s most popular question-and-answer platform has completed a $434 million investment round from tech giant Baidu, short-video app Kuaishou, and two other companies.
Beijing-based Zhihu said Monday that the investment represents its largest funding round to date, after the company raised $270 million over the same period last year. Zhou Yuan, Zhihu’s founder and CEO, wrote in a post on the platform that cooperation with the two new big-name investors shows a joint commitment to discovering and disseminating high-quality content and to strengthening online community-building.
“We’re all facing the same problem of inhabiting an isolated island of information, and the cost for users to gain access to high-quality content is rising,” Zhou wrote. “Working with Kuaishou and Baidu will help channel valuable information to more people, as well as amplify Zhihu users’ knowledge, experience, and insights.”
Baidu told domestic media that it plans to incorporate Zhihu within its flagship search engine and use Baidu’s AI technology to better distribute content to users with wide-ranging interests. Baidu has also revealed that it is developing a “super app” to host so-called mini apps and compete with Alipay and WeChat — the ubiquitous, multifunction apps affiliated with rival internet giants Alibaba and Tencent, respectively.
Launched in January 2011, the Quora-like Zhihu — whose name means “Do you know?” in classical Chinese — allows users to ask questions and get responses from others on all kinds of topics, from academic subjects to pop culture to romance. As of January of this year, the platform had over 220 million registered users and some 130 million total answers.
In 2016, Zhihu introduced several paid features on its platform. One of these, Zhihu Live, offers interactive Q&A sessions and lectures priced at 9.99 yuan to 499.99 yuan ($1.40–$71). Many of these interest-specific offerings last an hour or more, according to the company’s website.
In the years since, Zhihu has cultivated a reputation as one of China’s most reputable social media platforms for valuing the consumption of knowledge and protecting the intellectual property rights of its users’ answers. Moreover, verified experts and prolific writers can make money on the platform by answering questions and sharing their expertise. In 2018, the number of “knowledge buyers” in China — those who had paid to have their questions answered on any platform — reached 292 million, according to online consultancy iiMedia Research, which further projected that this figure would reach 387 million in 2019.
But the platform has also faced its share of struggles recently. In March of last year, Beijing’s cyberspace regulators ordered Zhihu to delist from app stores in China for seven days as punishment for “illicit information” being shared on its platform. And last December, Zhihu denied mounting rumors that it was planning to lay off hundreds of staff.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: IC)