I never expected that “Shang Zhihu, sharing the story I just made up” could become a good business. A month ago, when I swiped the screen to the “Story” page of Zhihu members on my mobile phone, I never thought that online literature (hereinafter referred to as online text) would be grafted on Zhihu in such a dramatic way; not to mention that Zhihu was unexpected In this way, in the process of snatching creators and commercialization, we secretly take stock.
You have to vomit, and you have to operate 3 steps to find the page after you open a member. The doll-style menu experience is not friendly enough
Knowing and stories are born to be a pair
“Zhihu has finally come to a showdown, we are here to make up the story.” When I mentioned to my colleague that Zhihu’s “Salt Selection Column” began to do online serialization, his first reaction was joking, and then he added a meaningful sentence. “After all, no one is more suitable as a’story meeting’ than Zhihu.”
It will start with the success of a phenomenon-level column in April 2020.
At that time, Zhihu and “July Li” launched “Washing Leading Flowers: The Survival of Vicious Female Matches”, which set a record of nearly 400,000 in a single month. Subsequently, the work and the topics derived from it were published on multiple platforms Provoked large-scale discussions.
Coincidentally, my friend wrote “Perfect Murder: Seven Real Serious Stories from an Old Criminal Policeman” written by Zhihu Chai Geng “Yes, it’s me”. According to reports, the highest monthly income exceeded 200,000 yuan.
“Washing the Lead: The Survival Record of Vicious Female Matches” is calculated based on the 29 yuan paid subscription price in the column. In a month, at least 13,793 subscribers have paid for this or opened membership; “Perfect Murder: 7 truths written by an old criminal policeman” “Stories of Serious Cases” is calculated based on the paid subscription price of 39 yuan in the column. In a month, at least 5,128 readers have paid for this or opened members.
They catch up with the pricing of physical books and the super high willingness to pay by fans. They all show the fact that everyone “knows nothing” about the commercialization capabilities of Zhihu.
If “July Li” and “Yes, it’s me” earn hundreds of thousands a month on other platforms by writing stories, it would never be so surprising. After all, on professional novel platforms such as Reading, Starting Point, and Jinjiang, the head The author’s annual income from royalties has already entered the ten million camp.
However, Zhihu is different. Before that, it was difficult for everyone to associate the elite-oriented Zhihu with the Internet articles that bear the stigma of the “three lows” (low education, low age, and low income), let alone the knowledge of Internet articles. Almost the platform has become the most successful business for commercialization.
In this regard, Hu Xiu sent out two interview invitations to Zhihu officials, but they were both declined. In view of this, although it is currently impossible to accurately know the specific operating status, profitability, author size, total subscribers and other data of the business, Zhihu’s web-text business can be described as a grass snake gray line, and a long way to go.
Time to pull back to April 2019, before the release of Qiyueli’s “Washing Lead China”, “Mengwa” was serialized under the question of “Why Concubines in the Harem Must Fight for Favor”. I led a wave of enthusiasm in knowing and writing online articles.
In August 2019, Zhihu officially embeds its online literature business in the membership system in the form of a “Salt Selection Column”. After the user pays, he can either find the answer from the specific question according to the map, or jump directly from the member portal.
In November 2019, Zhihu once tested the IP-based community content through the “Personal Stories” contest and successfully signed contracts with nearly 100 excellent works. Since then, the operating mode of the “Salt Selection Column” is: the platform taps potential authors to sign contracts to output content for their planning columns, and the authors enjoy the traffic revenue.
Based on this calculation, there are at least hundreds of columnists for salt selection. As for the update frequency of the column stories, based on the column stories I paid attention to, most of them can be maintained at weekly or monthly updates.
Zhihu Da [email protected]温酒 mentioned in an interview with “Connected Insight” that “Zhihu began to embrace the’story writer'” in 2017. At that time, “Zhihu Daily” suddenly added a column called “Big Error”, the main content was virtual stories. “From then on, many answers to stories and web articles on Zhihu have been published in Zhihu Daily.”
Even as early as 2016, Ma Boyong created “Assassin’s Creed: Chang’an” under the question of “If you write a plot for “Assassin’s Creed”, where would you set the background? In 2019, this story returned to the public eye in the form of a series of “The Twelve Hours of Chang’an”.
On the surface, there are free reading platforms such as Tomato, Feidu, Qimao, Midu, and paid platforms such as Reading Group, Palmyue Technology, Pingzhi Information, and Chinese Online. Zhihu seems to have no competitive advantage; in fact, Knowing that content precipitation and traffic accumulation are the biggest advantages. It is not restricted by timeliness and often looks new, but now it has become a “base” for other platforms to carry materials.
A WeChat friend complained in Moments: “If you have the text of Niu X, but you don’t transfer the video script in time, you will be taken advantage of by the washing and transporting parties. Zhihu has more than 33 million questions and 130 million answers It’s a rich ore for text creators to transfer videos. It’s really a blood loss to give others blood transfusions with this natural advantage.”
As Li Jian explained in his book “Unconditional Growth”:
“Corporate growth has two concepts, one is external growth, and the other is internal growth. External growth comes from the marginal sales growth outside the company, but external growth will have a ceiling with market saturation. How to achieve external growth and expansion actually depends on internal growth.”
The difficulty of internal growth for Zhihu lies in the fact that it must have certain barriers and ensure the user’s initiative in new businesses. For Zhihu, online texts are precisely one of the most suitable “internal growth” methods-its After integrating the web-text business into the framework of member commercialization, it can not only bring new monetization opportunities for creators, but also increase user stickiness.
Zhang Rongle, vice president of Zhihu and head of the membership business department, also said when summing up the reasons for the rapid growth of paying users of Zhihu, “One is to excavate well, and to continuously provide excellent creators and users for the membership business; the other is to focus more on Zhihu. The subdivision area that fits best with itself is targeted.”
Following this logic, from “Zhihu live” to “idea” to now “Salt Selection Column” and “Video Number”, Zhihu is looking for a new content distribution mechanism. In this way, I really responded to the colleague’s words, “No one is more suitable as a’story meeting’ than Zhihu.”
How did Zhihu become a “commercial insulator”?
In fact, before that, if creators are allowed to vote for the platform with the “highest difficulty in Chafan”, Zhihu must be among the best.
According to official data from Zhihu: Since its establishment in 2011, more than 220 million users have produced 30 million questions and 130 million answers, covering all aspects of science, daily life, and brainstorming. However, for the big Vs gathered in Zhihu, there is still a lack of a mature commercial realization path.
At the beginning of its establishment in 2011, Zhihu gathered only entrepreneurs, financial/technological reporters, and investors. Most of the questions asked were high-quality long-term answers with both industry depth and humanistic feelings. At that time, all majors Senior people hold the right to speak and are entrenched in the center of the community.
“At that time, Zhihu gathered a group of great people. Everyone asked serious questions and answers, and the quality was very high. After all, there are certain requirements for experience, education background, and writing skills. It is easy to show cowardice by pretending to be x.” (Pseudonym) described the atmosphere of the early Zhihu community to Tiger Sniff.
Media person Wu Yitong summed up three characteristics of these big Vs:
At the individual level, have solid professional knowledge, professional practical experience, and have a positive sense of sharing;
At the group level, there are close ties between big Vs, and the two-way following relationship can create an advantageous position, that is, there are “opinion leaders” among the opinion leaders;
At the level of knowledge interaction, the existence of big V has growth and mobility, and its mobility depends on the professionalism of the topic and the orientation of readers.
Just as Bourdieu stated in “National Elite-Famous Universities and Group Spirit”, “Contemporary society regards cultural practice and its continuous reproduction as the basic operating force of the entire society. The most important feature is the cultural influence in the entire society. Priority and the decisive significance of culture.”
These groups have established Zhihu’s cultural atmosphere and platform tone, at the cost of completely separating Zhihu from commerce and resisting commercialization by nature.
Zhihu creator Zhao Guan (pseudonym) said in an interview with Huxiu, “Before 2013, no one thought about making money from Zhihu. Old users have high hopes for this community. Together with Douban, they are regarded as young people. In the spiritual homeland, if you have a tendency to bow to money, you will be sprayed and wiped out, not to mention the answer to the main meal-not only the effect is poor and the powder is falling, there will also be a group of people tearing you up.”
But an indisputable fact is that with the continuous growth of Zhihu users in recent years, this invitation-based elite gathering place is becoming an inclusive community.
Zhihu’s user search portrait on Baidu Index in May 2018
Zhihu’s user search profile on Baidu Index in May 2020
In this process, more and more young users are absorbed. The advantage is that the right to speak is lowered. The sense of user participation in the new ecology of Zhihu has been greatly improved. Many users are both content consumers and content producers; disadvantages It’s also fatal—Zhihu did not respond to the conflicts caused by frequent collisions of user views. When more and more sub-cultural groups flooded in, the phenomenon of “lifting the bar” and “tearing” the community once prevailed.
The deep reasons:
On the one hand, there are endless jokesmen and story kings who have a hundred jobs. Many big V’s dry content are buried by the “shaking cleverness” and “storytelling” content that are not asked. The “strong answer” army is growing. . Even with the spread of the saying “Shang Zhihu, share the story you just made up”, diving users increasingly believe that Zhihu lacks awe and respect for knowledge.
Quora, the “originator” of the Q&A community, solved this problem by “making a strictly enforced rule in Quora, that is, the answer must be beneficial, and the answer that does not help the question will be hidden.” This not only kills the living space of the narrator on Quora, but also guarantees the quality of answers on Quora.
On the other hand, in the answer to the phenomenon/event question, the flow gradually shifts from the answer with strong professional skills to the answer with position/emotion first. Especially with the popularity of fishing posts such as “What kind of experience is XXX”, “How to evaluate XXX”, “Although I don’t understand (characteristics/behaviors of the opposite sex), ask XXX” and other fishing posts, the community’s own knowledge concentration has been repeatedly diluted.
This also challenges the voice of old users and the living environment to a certain extent. With positive incentives (money, honor, identity, etc.) being continuously diluted by the platform, some competent respondents began to migrate to other creative platforms. There are frequent news of “Zhihu Big V ran away”.
In this regard, Zhihu CEO Zhou Yuan once said to the media, “From a competitive perspective, the products of the entire mobile Internet company are under a large competitive background. Different companies have different strategies. There may be horizontal expansion or horizontal expansion. Vertically make the product very deep.”
To put it bluntly, in order to embrace more young people, Zhihu must bear the pain of generalization of content. However, there are unexpected surprises.
According to the “China Industry Information Network” data, in 2019, 86.3% of users are under 35 years of age. Among them, 37.4% of users are under 25, and 22.9% of users are between 25-30 years old. In between, 26.0% of users are between 31-35 years old.
Data source: China Industry Information Network
In other words, the age distribution of the online audience and the age distribution of Zhihu user portraits highly coincide. At Zhihu, the demand for online text reading has existed for a long time. You only need enough high-quality content to grab the attention of online text audiences from other platforms.
During the “Internet Conference” last year, Zhihu CEO Zhou Yuan once said, “Only when the three parts of users, content, and business promote each other and form a positive cycle, can the flywheel continue to rotate and grow and grow.”
You will find that at this time he has pushed business to the strategic height of platform development.
Zhou Yuan finally understood that niche communities are either big or dead. From content-content, users-content, users, and commerce, this is the most important and obvious element in the growth of a platform.
But before the commercialization of Internet content platforms, there were only two ways to sell advertising and to pay for knowledge.
The former is to cash out traffic, which will have a huge impact on the platform’s content ecology; the latter’s content texture is uncontrollable, and it is easy to cause word-of-mouth differentiation due to “sense of acquisition”. Looking at it now, since the beginning of the establishment of two business units of commercial advertising and knowledge services in 2017, Zhihu has just stepped on two pits.
In terms of advertising monetization, Zhihu ads are pervasive in the opening page, discovery interface, information flow, comment area, bottom recommendation and other functional modules, and even brand questions are interspersed in the special live scene.
However, these intensively infiltrated advertisements continue to encounter emotional resistance from old users and senior creators. It is not only because of the disorderly atmosphere after the sudden increase in advertising, but also based on the default assumption that in the process of commercialization of spiritual communities, it is prone to disillusionment of utopia collapse.
Screenshot source: The Internet refers to the north
Zhihu user “Chen Octopus” has made such a judgment about Zhihu recommendation orientation repeatedly, “Zhihu’s biggest problem now is actually between the traditional human-focused content model and the machine-recommended content model. ,indecisive.”
In terms of payment for knowledge, the “Knowledge University” system consists of “courses” + “books” + “training camps”. It wasn’t until the “Yanxuan Member” went online on March 21, 2019 that Zhihu transformed from a single knowledge payment to a diversified membership economy.
Looking back now, the sharing of professional knowledge by V-Vs in the subdivisions is relatively small, and few people are willing to continue to pay. V-Vs in the general education field have more emotional mobilization capabilities than professional capabilities, and it is difficult to continuously produce high-quality paid content. Coupled with the increasing overlap of payment systems such as e-books, round tables, and Live lectures, the screening responsibilities that platforms evade are all passed on to user trial and error costs. In the end, this awkward business with input-output ratio tends to be suspended in most big V accounts.
Since then, Zhihu’s commercialization has also become more and more “presumptuous” from the previous restraint, and has continued to linger in the outlets of short videos, short information streams, e-commerce, and live broadcasts-it has been actively facing the process of community transformation to platform In the throes, I tried to balance the conflict between the community and the platform attributes through the revision, but after all I did not find the most comfortable way to make money.
Know the gold content of web articles
Weibo CEO Wang Gaofei (@来去间) has a saying that is quite interesting. He once said to the outside world: “The first half of the Internet does its own thing. In the second half, it’s not you who do me, I do yours, and then wait until you find out. What suits you can form a new balance.”
From now on, web text has become a new starting point in the commercialization of Zhihu.
Although the market still jokingly claims that the online audience is the “three low” people, the fact that the monthly income of 400,000 yuan in online writing in July is at least a positive signal that the new online business format is recognized by the market.
Zhihu advertises “Washing Leading Flowers: Survival Records of Vicious Female Matches” as an excellent case benchmark
Da Qian (pen name), a heavy web enthusiast, said to Tiger Sniff:
“I started to read online essays in the first year of junior high school (2009). Mortals, obscuring the sky, and changing stars, etc., were almost in the golden age of online essays. Although it cannot be denied that there were many mentally handicapped and refreshing articles at that time, almost all of them were ” “Tomb Robber Notes”, “Those Things of the Ming Dynasty”, and “Ghost Blowing Lantern” are covered by the light of these gods.”
Nowadays, as the golden age has passed, it has become more and more difficult for us to see the appearance of phenomenal works in online articles. To this day, Da Qian bluntly said: “There is even a book shortage, and I feel that many online articles are humiliating IQ.”
There are many reasons behind this. One of the more important ones is that when reading articles dominate web articles, the standardized and streamlined creative mode has completely disrupted the creators’ own rhythm-traffic is king, and channels are the king. The importance of quality content itself.
“The so-called’Golden Three’ and’Golden Fingers’ these so-called web-text experiences have become popular. Creators have begun to chase traffic and profit creation, and the web content will naturally become less and less quality. In addition, web authors have thousands of royalties annually. The myth of making wealth like this has caused many people with no experience or qualified writing ability to flood into the web, which has exacerbated the blowout of those mentally handicapped web posts.”
On the other hand, Zhihu, its existence just solves the paradox of the development of online literature.
Undoubtedly, Zhihu is still one of the community platforms with the highest comprehensive user quality. Its early accumulated high-quality users have become the mainstream of current part-time authors. This group and MCN form the main output of Zhihu web content.
On the one hand, some creators of Zhihu can produce high-quality online literary works based on academic qualifications and knowledge reserves, and the overall texture is even better than that of novels on free platforms; on the other hand, high-quality users are more accepting of various literary forms , Which makes the creative atmosphere of the entire platform more tolerant. After all, most of Zhihu web articles are better than brain and writing, and many stories are well-conceived.
This characteristic has largely affected the characteristics of Zhihu web content, that is, Zhihu’s “story archives” are more literary than traditional online literature-on the free reading platform of flow novels lying dead and continue to follow the “overbearing” When the “President” and “Zui Son-in-law Dragon King” used cool essay routines, Zhihu novels instead pursued the fine-quality and literary nature of online literature.
Moreover, the window period for the promotion of Zhihu’s web-text business just coincided with the stage where the emotional opposition between the readers and the author’s group was the strongest (55 broken changes), which accelerated the flow of external authors to the Zhihu platform to a certain extent.
“Can you say that people who like to read classics must be more valuable than users who like to read web articles? There shouldn’t be a chain of contempt for user needs. If some user needs are ignored for a long time, just because old users are repelled, they will not do it. How can this community continue to develop?” Product Manager Zhang Tuo (pseudonym) said to Tiger Sniff.
Zhang Tuo’s attitude towards Zhihu’s web-text business is very clear, “make money, business, not shabby”.
Screenshot, the classic lines of “Let the Bullets Fly”
As @温酒 said in an interview, “As an author, when the influence has not surpassed the platform, try to bloom everywhere. Because you can’t guarantee which platform will not have problems, and the platform can be banned. It is for the author. It has the right to decide.” In his view, reading has changed from the original creative paradise to the “evil dragon” that devours the author.
In addition, Zhihu once told Huxi that Zhihu’s membership content system has its own advantage, which is its high degree of integration with the community:
“We dig out outstanding creators from users who are active in the community to sign contracts with us, encourage them to create medium and long content, and then launch paid content such as columns and e-books.
They get shared income, and there are also hundreds of thousands of income in a single month; on the other hand, we break up and integrate the introduced paid content into related problems in the community to solve specific problems in the community. We call it “question and answer integration” . The integration of question and answer helps paid content to improve content conversion. “
Translating adult words, knowing that the information delivered by the online text business is only eight words: can write, someone can read, and make money.
Even, Zhihu’s choice of backward compatibility and finding new growth from the sinking market can be understood as a more tolerant community culture-Zhihu can continue to produce hard-core science popularization of “Yangchun Baixue”, but also embrace the “lower Liba people” Serialized on the web.
In a nutshell, Zhihu’s positioning is the third pole that is different from the mainstream web sites such as Jinjiang and Qihu. This may be one of the reasons why Zhihu’s online text went viral.
However, knowing how to continue the “beautiful growth curve” after betting on the online text business is the primary problem to be solved by the platform.
As we all know, out of the consideration of brand building, the new platform business will have a certain degree of resource tilt in the early stage, but no matter what platform it is on, the “hydration” of content cannot be avoided in the later stage.
To this end, the reading platform has established a powerful elimination mechanism.
“The platform’s demanding requirements for the author’s daily change of words will not be mentioned. Now not only can the reading of dozens/million words of best-selling novels be mastered and analyzed in real time, the platform will even follow the fluctuations in user attention and topic The author revises the direction of the story and the relationship between the characters.” When a reading author said this to Tiger Sniff online, it was somewhat surprising.
He also added, “Those great gods are all outstanding from such a screening mechanism.” However, even so, reading still faces the problem of slow growth of paying users.
However, from the experience of reading articles, online articles are no longer limited to paid reading, they have derived a business ecosystem integrating film, television, animation, and IP.
“I think Zhihu is too late to do this. Most of the articles on Zhihu are short, which is very different from the traditional long articles with millions of words. In the fast-paced now, everyone is addicted to writing. Douyin, the pursuit of reading a novel quickly is also a demand, and it is just a need. This may be the direct reason why Zhihu is popular.”
After a pause, Daqian continued to add: “The former YY literature and Shuangwen are just one of the initial forms of online literature. When more and more platforms are crowded onto the poker table, and creators, platforms, and markets form healthy competition, online literature It will definitely usher in prosperity and explosion again.”
From the perspective of Da Qian, whether it is from a commercial perspective or a market demand perspective, online literature will eventually become refined and bear certain literary responsibilities.