Seventeen years ago, Wu Wenhui, the “godfather of online culture”, established the VIP payment system for online culture, and the business model of the industry changed from free to paid. Now, Wu Wenhui is retiring, and the free novels are aimed at sinking the users, and there is a trend to subvert the current pattern of online culture in the world. Reading has also changed from a simple content business to a content + traffic business.
Source: leopard change
Author: Huang Xiaofang
Editor: Xing Yun
Free Admission? Or pay?
17 years later, network literature returns to this key proposition.
It has been 23 years since the founding of banyan by William Chu, a Chinese American, in 1997. In order to solve the survival problem of the website, in 2003, Wu Wenhui, the founder of CNKI, decided to implement the VIP subscription system. The website was divided into chapters, readers paid to unlock, and two cents per thousand words.
From free to paid, the online text has set off a big wave, and many people in the industry are singing down. However, the VIP system eventually became the core business model of online literature, and countless great God writers got decent income by writing articles, accompanied by the problem of piracy.
From the starting point to Shanda and Tencent, Wu Wenhui integrated Jinjiang, RongShuXia, Hongxiu Tianxiang and other platforms, and finally built an online reading group with the largest market share, known as the “godfather of online literature”.
And let Wu Wenhui seal the gods of this set of VIP paid game rules, now again by the challenge of free reading.
According to questmobile data, as of September 2020, the Mau of tomato novel and seven cat novel, which were born less than two years ago, were 58.15 million and 51.04 million respectively, ranking the second and third in reading app category, second only to palm reading technology. Among them, the dau of tomato novel has exceeded 26 million, ranking first in the industry.
Free reading platform is rising strongly, the proposition seems to go back. In April 2020, the Yuewen high-rise earthquake, 42 year old Wu Wenhui announced his retirement in the circle of friends. It is speculated that Wu Wenhui’s departure is related to the implementation of the free reading program, and the two failed to reach an agreement.
The online world cup is back.
Flow new business in sinking Market
In 2001, Chen Cun, a columnist and writer under the banyan tree, made a post saying that “the best era of network literature has passed”, triggering a great discussion.
Wu Wenhui later talked about his views in the interview. ‘that’s what the elite see, and it’s not the same as what the grassroots see below. ‘. What Wu Wenhui sees is the grassroots readers and writers who are trying to create.
If we say that Wu Wenhui led the network to sink for the first time, now free reading focuses on more grass-roots groups and makes a second sinking.
The listing of Yuewen group in 2017 is regarded as the highlight of the industry. The next year, there are a number of free novel reading software quietly on the market, interesting headlines under the meter read and Lianshang literature admission.
The founder of Lianshang literature is the younger brother of Chen Tianqiao, the former chairman of Shanda. There are many old Sheng adults behind Lian Shang and Mi Du. The new and old forces have changed their positions and collided again.
Since then, Internet giants have entered with traffic.
In 2019, baidu took a stake in seven cat novels, and made tomato novels. Relying on byte beating and Baidu’s powerful flow support, tomato novels and seven cat novels are rising rapidly. Reading group also had to launch free reading platform to do defense.
Free reading users have increased rapidly. According to Bida consulting data, from only 50 million in the first quarter of 2018 to 250 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, while the number of paying users has decreased from 420 million in the first quarter of 2018 to 330 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. The gap between the two is constantly narrowing, and it is only a matter of time before it can surpass.
The epidemic situation in early 2020 has stimulated a wave of free reading market development.
Behind the rapid development of free reading, there is still the competition between the content and traffic of Internet giants.
The rise of free platforms is also a familiar formula. Like pinduoduo and interesting headlines, free reading also takes a fancy to the sinking market. According to questmobile’s data in March 2019, users of free novels are mainly distributed in second tier and lower tier cities, accounting for 76.7% of the total free reading.
The report shows that users of free novels are sinking more
These groups have not yet formed the habit of paying and have a lot of free time. In view of these characteristics, rice reading, tomato novels, seven cat novels have launched the integral incentive function to win over the sinking market users.
The so-called user incentive is often said to read books to make money. Taking tomato novel as an example, the first time you invite a friend, you can get 29 yuan cash withdrawal. At present, Qimao can earn up to 4 yuan by inviting friends. In order to obtain the cash for pulling in new products, during the epidemic period, users posted invitation codes for registration on various social platforms to serve as tap water for these free platforms.
Today, registration can still get 1 yuan, but the tomato’s invitation withdrawal function is no longer available. Users can collect tomatoes by reading tasks, and get 200 tomatoes after watching for 5 minutes. Tomatoes can be exchanged for corresponding cash. Seven cat platform is also similar to the task play.
However, it is not easy to imagine cash in the market. People on the social platform make complaints about the failure of the Tucao. A user said he read 4 Novels and 108 novels on the tomato, and only 4. In order to ensure that users are active, the amount of red envelope account will be cleared if they do not log in tomato novel for 30 consecutive days.
In addition to making money through reading books, these gimmicks have become a new marketing position for free novels, and online short videos have sprung up.
The free novel app has made a short video of the online text
In just one minute, the “cool point” on the Internet was filmed into a small video, with multiple reversals and strong conflicts. The plot was full of ups and downs and was fascinating. A netizen told Bao Bian, “it’s really on top of the game.” after she opened it several times, she found that it had been drained to the novel reading app.
In the eyes of users, they read novels to kill time and earn some pocket money. In the eyes of the platform, these users are traffic and long stay. The core business model of free novels is “free reading + advertising realization”.
A person in the Internet industry told Bao Bian that what free novels want is user attention. Nowadays, the cost of getting customers from the Internet is gradually increasing. It is indeed a good business to obtain users at low cost or even zero cost through the entrance of free novels.
Gaofei, an operator of a free reading app, told Bao Bian that the boss wanted to pay, but the threshold was too high to go through, so he began to take the path of free novels. However, this “free” is only a way to compete for users in the sinking market. In addition to advertising, the ultimate realization may also charge membership fees.
It’s not necessary to have a full screen reading of most novels on a free platform. If you don’t want to see the advertisement, you need to buy members. At present, the price of a month’s membership of tomato novel is 18 yuan, and that of seven cats is 12 yuan per month.
The free mode is more powerful in expanding new users, which can really enlarge the cake of online reading, and reading is also transformed from a simple content business to a content + traffic business.
The anxiety of the authors
At the user level, the overlapping degree of target groups covered by free and paid services is not high, and the competition is not obvious. However, on the content level, payment platforms such as reading articles have accumulated a lot, and free novels also need to supplement excellent content to increase user stickiness.
As a result, the author as the content of water source has become the focus of cultivation or competition of various platforms.
At the beginning of May, the dispute over the reading contract was fermenting among the online writers. The copyright incident hurt the hearts of some online writers, and also let these free platforms see the opportunity.
Zhang Zhen, a writer at the waist of reading, received an invitation from the editor of tomato novels in July. The editor told Zhang fan that the tomato manuscript fee increased rapidly, and the total attendance award was 1000.
In Zhang Zhen’s view, “free reading is a trend, and the flow is large”, which affected his confidence by the reading event, he turned to tomato novels.
Zhang has been writing about tomato novels for more than four months, but he was disappointed when he arrived at tomato.
The author’s income composition of the paid platform is “VIP chapter purchase + Gift reward + publishing or selling IP share”, while the author’s income composition of free novel platform is relatively simple, mainly relying on advertising revenue.
In Zhang’s view, tomatoes copied the mechanism of shaking. From writing the first word, we could get some traffic and money. The good data could be used for the first show, which is tiktok to a larger traffic pool. However, there are some problems with such a mechanism, that is, the traffic is very large, but the allocation mechanism is not transparent, and whether the author’s article can match with the appropriate readers should also be a question mark. “Running tomatoes with running trembling is not effective, at least for me, it’s tiktok.”
According to his observation, there are not many writers like him who go from reading articles to free platforms. The level of God is basically 0.
At the beginning of 2019, Tang Jiasan Shao, the “great God of online writing”, publicly said, “free reading should be the trend in the future, and I think the content in the future should be free.”
This statement immediately triggered a heated discussion among the author group. Many authors boycotted the free platform under their real names, and Tang Jiasan Shao was also criticized for being on the hot search. Opponents argue that free is not an incentive to produce better works.
At the beginning, the wandering toad said in Zhihu, “free is to turn all the authors into the bottom authors Expect the advertisement to share, not only the contribution fee, but also the IQ will be cut off. ”
In this case, the development of new authors has become the main task of each free platform. The free platform takes out the subsidy method, not only to mine the authors, but also to stimulate the authors to do articles on the quality and completion of articles, so as to improve the user stickiness.
In April, Midu launched the “civilian hero” program. In the next three years, it plans to invest no less than 1 billion yuan in capital and flow resources, focusing on tapping and supporting a group of high-quality potential authors. Two months later, tomato novels launched the “spark project”, which set five levels of subsidies according to the completion rate of the works. The highest reward for plagiarism is 3000 yuan.
Many novices do rush for money.
“Tomatoes do well. Pay platform 300000 words to have money, can’t afford it. ” Asked why he became the author of the tomato novel, a writer named fairy replied so. He believes that the threshold of payment platform is too high, it is difficult for novices to get ahead. Another author of the free platform also believes that readers of free novels do not require high quality novels and are suitable for newcomers without foundation.
The algorithm recommendation mechanism of the platform may lead to traffic oriented. Although there is a common phenomenon that people write “shuangwen” under the paid mode, it may become industrialized and mass-produced “shuangwen” in the free mode. Mone, the contract author of the payment platform, tells Bao Bian that this mechanism is easy to compare and imitate, and what makes money is written.
In addition, as the author’s income mainly comes from the advertising share, once they find that the benefit of this book is not good, cutting the book (giving up writing) becomes their first choice.
An editor with five years of experience in the industry told Bao Bian that although cutting books is a common phenomenon in the industry, it is very unfriendly to readers’ reading experience and will also affect the author’s reputation. “If the author always does this, his reader loss will be very serious.”
Its own original, if not, the free reading platform can only introduce “living water” from the outside.
According to a report by the new era Securities Research Institute, in June this year, most of the top ten works on the free platforms, whether tomato, Qimao or Midou, were authorized by external platforms.
Finally, reading products should return to the content itself, and good content will have long-term vitality. For the content operation of free novels, leopard has contacted tomato novels and seven cats novels successively. As of the time of publication, no reply has been received.
Where is reading going?
The book written by Zhang Zhen in tomato is basically popular. He tells Bao Bian that the next book will continue to return to the starting point.
In November, the editor found Zhang Zhen. This time, we need to sign a free contract, which specifically includes buying out for two years, and then turning to advertisement sharing, “the starting point is still charged. We can put it on QQ reading, flying reading and other platforms for free reading, which is equivalent to exchanging left hand for right hand.”.
In the face of the encirclement and suppression of free novels, the traditional payment leader has also launched a free platform for reading articles and hand reading. The love stories of ZhangYue and the flying novels of Yuewen will be launched in March and April 2019 respectively.
The above industry insiders told Bao Bian that although there are differences in the user groups of free novels and paid novels, there will still be impacts in the long run. “Quantitative change will also bring qualitative change, and readers’ reading time is limited.”.
Cheng Xiangjun, chairman of palm reading technology, once said that free reading or paid reading may eventually evolve into a “pay + free” two wheel drive business model.
For the traditional payment platform such as reading articles, the change is also inevitable.
In the face of more and more intense attention competition of short video, the threshold of traditional payment mode has limited the online reading market to a certain extent, and the growth is insufficient. In the later stage, it will rely on IP copyright operation to realize. A good IP can indeed form its own ecology. Take “Douluo continent” as an example, this online article published in 2009 has been adapted into TV series, movies, games and animation works.
However, there is a great deal of uncertainty in IP operation, which requires long-term maintenance and operation.
The payment flow of reading group also began to touch the ceiling. According to the financial report, the number of paying users for reading articles has decreased for three consecutive years since 2017. The average monthly paid users of the company’s own platform products and self operated channels decreased from 10.8 million in 2018 to 9.8 million in 2019, a decrease of 9.3% year-on-year.
Pay platform for free has natural copyright and author advantages. However, the semi annual report published in August admitted that the free reading business did not meet the expectations. As a supplement to paid reading products, the growth rate of Feidu app lagged behind the industry level, and the overall performance did not match the leading position of online literature corresponding to reading articles.
According to Qimai data, the overall ranking of the free book list has been stable in the past three months, fluctuating between 40 and 80. Under the same conditions, tomato ranked first, followed by seven cats.
From this, we can see that the “pay + free” dual round model is not as ideal as expected. According to the current market ranking, the future paid and free are likely to operate independently, and of course, capital integration does not rule out.
The rise of tomato novels is the embodiment of the power of capital.
In the autumn of 2019, there was a defendant in three digital reading companies, namely, moti, ZhangYue and chinaonline. That is Beijing reading infinite Culture Co., Ltd., which is owned by byte skipping. The reason for the prosecution is the same. In short, the defendant carried out transmission without authorization. But at the end of the year, all civil proceedings related to it were withdrawn.
It turns out that byte hop and chinaonline have reached a cooperation, and finally took a stake in palm reading technology and Xiuwen technology under moto. Among them, the total consideration for the shares of the company is 1.1 billion yuan, becoming the third largest shareholder of palm reading technology. In addition, according to incomplete statistics, byte also invested in five Internet companies, including Dingtian culture, Wuli culture and Tadu literature.
Gao Fei also told Bao Bian that although free reading is coming, it is still something else to be realized by advertising. For example, tomato novels are backed by byte system, so it is not difficult to realize advertising cash. Many other platforms try to do traffic first, and then explore charging, small games, short video dramas, and even IP.
“We this kind of small platform has tried film and television, or expect to have a blockbuster article, through IP to achieve greater realization.”
When Wu Wenhui retired in April, he made a circle of friends: “when the wind is calm, I will sweep the table on the Bank of the lake and sea to thank you. But when we treat each other, we have tea and no sword.”
Wu Wenhui’s expectation of calm and calm has not been realized, and the impact of free novels is becoming more and more intense. However, in the final analysis, the novel business is still a content business. If free novels want to make bigger things, they have to dig deeper into the moat of content.
(at the request of the interviewees, Zhang Zhen and Gao Fei are pseudonyms)