Social media network Douban, sometimes referred to as China’s online home to the literati has launched its first paid content feature Douban Time. Douban is the latest player in the emerging paid content market in China, which WeChat looks to be joining soon as well.

Douban Time will feature curated texts, images and sound from experts and writers in different fields. Catering to its audience, Douban Time’s first offering is a 102-episode poetry review program which will invite poets and critics to give lessons in poetry appreciation. The RMB 128 pricing is below that of the established paid content app iGet, which offers yearly subscriptions for RMB 199.

An ad for Douban Time

The company behind iGet is Luogic Show (罗辑思维, a play on the host’s name), a new media startup founded by former CCTV host Luo Zhenyu. He left CCTV to start a web show offering book recommendations and other self-help advice, then grew to offer exclusive content from a range of experts through his platform. The company’s 2015 RMB 1.32 billion series B reportedly made Luo Zhenyu the richest new media entrepreneur at the time.

“I have always believed that information should be free,” Luo Zhenyu said in an interview with Sohu (in Chinese). “However, the processing of information comes at a cost.”

When WeChat joins the arena, paid content could flourish even more in China. Over 10 million public accounts, of which 650,000 are company affiliated official accounts, are operating on the social media network. WeChat has already introduced a “reward” function where users can make one-off payments to the author of a WeChat post. However, there is a daily limit of RMB 50,000. Once the limit is reached, the reward function turns off.

“We’ve received feedback and are working quickly [to launch the feature],” Tencent co-founder Pony Ma recently commented (in Chinese) on the progress of the WeChat paid content function. With a market of 650 million active users on WeChat, the launch day cannot come soon enough for content creators.

Linda Lew

Linda Lew is a Beijing-based journalist who covers technology, start-ups and business in China. You can reach her at lindalew at aliyun dot com.