[Exclusive] Changba Founder: Gamification Will Increase User Engagement and Monetization Opportunities

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Changba launched virtual currency earlier that users now can buy virtual flowers to gift to singers. Chen Hua, founder and CEO of Changba, said it, besides being a step toward monetization, was meant to meet users’ demand, when I sat down with him at our ChinaBang 2013.

Previously, every user on Changba was allowed to send a limited number of virtual flowers to singers, for free. But that’s far from enough to some. Audiences would like to spend money to show their affection to performers, according to Mr. Chen, and some singers wanted to buy their way to higher positions on the popularity-based charts — audiences who care so much about  singers they like also would like to spend money there. Mr. Chen doesn’t think paid chart rankings can materially affect the whole picture of ranking, which means he doesn’t worry that other users would be angry at it.

Now it sounds like an online game that players pay for in-game virtual items or privileges. When it comes to ARPU, however, he doesn’t think Changba, as a mobile KTV app, can make that much money from a user as real-time video show services who make money from virtual item sales, such as 9158. His reasoning is male users, who make up 9158′s major audiences, would like to pay more, while a majority of users on Changba are female. All said,  Changba is like a casual game while 9158 is an MMORPG.

Producing local stars has been a goal Mr. Chen’s. With local stars, singers will have separate markets, interacting with fans offline or organizing local concerts. What’s more, there will be more chart slots for sale. Considering localization, the local charts may not only be based on popularity but take other factors into consideration, Chen says.

Besides virtual items and charts, Changba will add more gamification features to increase user engagement. Social is another factor Mr. Chen concerns about in order to keep users active on the platform. He reckons social features could help singers and fans, or other users, build social connections online and offline.

Mr.Chen agrees that 2013 will be an important year for China’s digital music industry that most legitimate online music services had launched subscription-based paid services, and a variety of music shows or products will come out in the second half of this year. Changba has reached partnership with a handful of TV stations to make music programs. It also has plans to organize offline activities. Changba now has no problem with digital music rights that they’d pay or exchange for music and lyrics rights.

As a serial entrepreneur, Chen founded Kuxun, an online travel search service, which was rumored to be acquired by Ctrip. Mr. Chen said he might lose USD100 mn on Kuxun. The site was sold to TripAdvisors by its investors in 2009 and Chen was ousted then.