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Women of China, Will You Shell out Money for Public Accounts? Despite such optimism, public account operators' opinions, though, are divided on adopting the pay-for-view function.

Will You Shell out Money for Public Accounts?

By Ruan FanEditor: Yang Yang
Will You Shell out Money for Public Accounts?
WeChat is China's most popular mobile text and voice messaging communication service developed by Tencent.  [File Photo]


Communication and social networking service provider WeChat may introduce a pay-for-view function for the many public accounts that share information, pictures and videos in Moments, confirmed Tencent CPO Zhang Jun in a recent interview with cnr.cn.

"We haven't decided yet when the product will be launched as it is still being polished. And instead of the closed beta phase, we're still in the test phase," Zhang said.

Test phase means the new function is tested within the team. Zhang's statement contradicts claims by some verified Weibo users that a few quality public account owners have already received invitation to try the function.

Li Yipu, founder of Shanghai Lexiangjia Investment Consulting Company, for example, posted on her Sina Weibo a screenshot of the function that said: "To get a full view of 370 words article, the reader would have to pay 0.1 yuan ($0.015)."

As reported by cnr.cn, public account holders could set the free-for-view range from 20-200 words, and charge the reader from 0-200 yuan per article. And if the article is deleted, paid readers won't be able to read it again. All the money received would go to the account owner.

The news generated debate among Internet users after it was posted on Sina Weibo by cnr.cn on Monday. Many spoke out against the idea, claiming they would drop WeChat and go for alternatives.

"WeChat is not a necessity for me," wrote LandeliFPA. "Anything that charges would be off my list," wrote another, puxiaotao.

In contrast to the public opinion, public account owners who actually write stuff applauded the change.

"It is fair enough to pay for valuable information that you read. Charging would push for higher quality information, and lift the overall standard of articles circulating on the app," said Qiao Mu, owner of several public accounts and professor of media and mass communication at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

In fact, the pay-for-view idea doesn't come all of a sudden.

Early in August, the WeChat team had suggested this move in public. Tencent CEO Ma Huateng also said in a 2014 speech that "rareness" leads to profit, and that content with personality, charisma and creativity should be rewarded in the Internet Economy.

WeChat followed Sina Weibo, which introduced the reward function for long articles in August, 2014, adding the same function last April, in addition to the "original" tag function that was in effect since last January. With the reward function, readers might reward the writer from 1 to 200 yuan by online payment tools. It is reported that 260,000 yuan in revenue was generated in the first three days itself.

Figures show that China is seeing a growing number of readers willing to pay for quality contents in the last couple of years.

According to a 2014 report issued by EnfoDesk, revenue generated from mobile reading reached 8.84 billion yuan in 2014, and active readers on mobile devices saw an annual increase of 20.9 percent, reaching 590 million by the end of the year. The report estimated that the total revenue of 2017 would reach 15 billion yuan.

Despite such optimism, public account operators' opinions, though, are divided on adopting the pay-for-view function.

Jin Cuodao, a self-made media operator who owns several public accounts, said that he wouldn't give it a try at the moment.

"Our biggest public account has over hundreds of thousands followers, but I don't think our followers would like to see us charging. I don't think our public accounts would use that function."

On the other hand, Li Shaoxiong, who owns a public account that has over 7,000 followers, and an average page view of around 1,000, said that he would consider charging, only in a slightly different way.

"I would set the main body of the article free of charge, instead of the first two hundred words," Li said, adding that "two hundred words might not intrigue the readers' interests so much as to pay for it."

Li said that he wrote over a hundred articles in the past year, and earned 10,000 yuan out of them. Those rewards encourage him to write more and write better.

The upcoming function, while remains to be tested, might not be available to all public accounts just like the "reward" function and "original" tag function.

"I had tried to ask my friend who works in WeChat to grant me the reward function at the very beginning while operating my public account, but I was turned down," said Fan Yi, former employee at a New Oriental School who owns several public accounts.

"They have sorting criteria, which decides what kind of public accounts qualifies the reward function, I think it goes the same with the pay-for-view function," Fan said.

The biggest problem worrying some media critics, however, is the problem of copyright protection.

"A reader might copy paste your article to post it free somewhere else, we can't do nothing about it," said Qiao.

"It is good to reward the original, professional and valuable information, but copyright problem still poses a big challenge for the authors," he said.

(Source: China Daily)

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