Free reading has been a hot new field since 2018. Who is the last person who laughs?

Editor’s note: This article is from WeChat public account “Internet and entertainment geeks” ( ID: TMTphantom), author Yu Pei.

(This article only represents the personal views of the head of the thief group, does not represent the views of its service agencies, and does not constitute investment advice. It is only for the general public to refer to the masses.)

What are the hottest emerging areas of the Internet industry in the past few years? Short videos, small programs, online red goods, industry Internet, sea… What else? Free reading is definitely one of them. Although this market is still small (close to zero from a revenue perspective), it has earned enough attention and has appeared on media titles and company press releases numerous times:

Read the app “Seven Cats” for free;

The fun headline has launched a free reading app “Mi reading”;

Byte Beat launched a free reading app “Tomato”;

Reading has launched a free reading app “Flying Reading”;

Iqiyi’s reading app “Iqiyiyi Reading” moves closer to the free direction;

There are also book-tracking artifacts, Lian Shang, and countless public numbers, small programs, and long-tailed apps that use the banner of “no longer recharge to see broken novels”…

In just 12 months, Internet giants or startups, countless capital players are eyeing the “free reading” market, and the heat is probably only the “live war” of the year. “The fight for the group” “short video war” can be compared. At the beginning, I think the market is a bit of a big problem. Is there such a high gold content for free reading? However, as the number of users who continue to overweight and read for free is growing (it is said that several MAUs have broken through 10 million this year), it seems that they have to face this topic.

Read this war for free, laugh at the last may still read the article

(It is said that MAU’s highest free reading app is currently seven cats)

All free reading apps can be divided into two categories: one is a free app (flying reading) launched by the “paid reading giant” such as reading and palm reading, they are “old days dominators” of Internet reading; One is a free app launched by other Internet giants and even startups (almost all apps except for flying reading), which are “revolutionaries” who are determined to “disrupt the old order.”

Why do you want a revolution? It is said that it is because the traditional Internet reading business model – readers recharge the novel, the platform and the author’s “paid reading” mode, has not been applied to the times, at least there is no room for growth. Some people say that the price at the starting point and reading in Jinjiang is too expensive; some people say that books that can be read freely on other websites do not need to spend money to read; some people say that Chinese readers do not like to spend money, just love to watch. Free; others say that free reading can bring new user groups and new revenue models, thus broadening the space for reading the entire Internet.

Is the above opinion correct? In fact, only one is correct. Let us judge one by one.

Opinion: “The price at the starting point and reading in Jinjiang is too expensive.”

The truth: It’s not expensive. Take the starting point as an example, the subscription price is 5 cents in a thousand words; if you spend 1200 yuan in a year, you can upgrade to a primary VIP, and the price will drop to 4 cents in a thousand words; there are many restrictions, red envelopes, and discounts. In this way, a 3 million-word book can be read only after spending 120 yuan. It is obviously cheaper than a physical book, and it is no more expensive than many forms of Internet entertainment.

Read this war for free, laugh at the end may still read the article

(5.2 million words in “Break the Sky”, about 200 yuan after reading)

Opinions: Books that can be read freely on other websites, why pay for it?

Truth: If you find the starting point, Jinjiang’s payment book, you can watch it for free on other platforms, it is likely to be pirated. Because the novel piracy is too easy, the speed of transmission is too fast, and it is repeated. Although the phenomenon of piracy exists objectively, it is certainly not worth promoting piracy. China is a country ruled by law and intellectual property rights are protected.

Opinion: MediumNational readers do not like to spend money, just love to watch free.

Truth: The forerunner represented by the starting point Chinese network has spent more than ten years to cultivate the user’s payment habits. Even in the era of no mobile Internet and no WeChat payment, a large number of readers are willing to spend money to support their favorite readers. If there is no “pay-sub-account” business model, most popular online novels cannot be born. Moreover, Chinese users have long been accustomed to paying for genuine videos, genuine music, and genuine animations, and of course they will be genuine novels.

Opinion: Free reading can bring new user groups and new revenue models.

The truth: I’m finally right! No matter how cheap the paid subscription is, it can’t be afforded, especially for students. Today, many college students still only have a few hundred yuan of living expenses per month, and middle school students have less pocket money; they are the main readers of online novels. There are still some users who are not short of money, but only the light readers of online novels. Payment is not a rigid demand. Can you think of other ways to meet their needs? For example, advertising, such as cross-selling?

Reading this article has been thinking about this for a long time – it was not until the first quarter of 2019 that it began to distribute free content in Tencent QQ, QQ browser and other channels. In the second quarter, it launched a free reading app “flying reading”. . According to QuestMobile’s data, in just a few months, the flight has already had about 15 million MAU and more than 3 million DAU. Recently, the regulatory authorities have reorganized the online literature industry, and many free reading apps have been temporarily removed, but the flight reading has not been affected, so its industry rankings should continue to climb in the next few months.

Read this war for free, laugh at the end may still read the article

(This is the “flying reading” of reading, and there are still many popular books)

However, peers, investors, and the media are still skeptical: isn’t it a good fight? How does it maintain a paid QQ reading at the same time, plus a free fly reading? The operation idea of ​​free reading is definitely not the same as the payment? Besides, the competitors have been rushing for so long, and now it is necessary to fully catch up, fearing it is also difficult.

The above question is of course justified, but we first need to answer an interesting question (Many people may not have thought about the answer at all.): Where is the content of the free reading app on the market?

Is it falling from the sky? Obviously not.

Is user generated UGC? Most of them are not.

Is it historically free content that is not protected by copyright? Only part of it is.

Is it free to read the app endogenous? Only a very small part is.

Correct answer: In addition to a small amount of pirated content, the free reading app on the market (except for reading and reading), most of the content comes from third-party procurement authorization, and part of the physical book. Electronic.

We will answer the next question: relying on third-party procurement, coupled with the electronicization of physical books, can meet the reading needs of the majority of net-text readers?

Obviously not. Like the video platform, the reading platform also needs exclusive content and new content; otherwise, it is just a “content second trafficker”, not to form a self-sufficient ecosystem.

Good, let’s answer the third question: After a period of development and growth, can the pure free reading app form its own original content system like today’s starting point and Jinjiang?

It’s hard. The online novels are written by the author. The author is a person, and the person is going to eat, so the author has to eat. What does the author rely on for dinner? Of course, it is a draft fee. Where does the draft fee come from? Of course it is given by the reader. Therefore, the reader is the author of the author and the platform.

Read this war for free, laugh at the end may still read the article

(If no readers pay, most popular web posts will die in the cradle)

Some people will say that the free reading app also has advertising revenue, which can come up with a part of feeding the author to form another virtuous circle. The problem is: this is not enough! At present, the MAUs of all the free reading apps in the country add up, probably barely more than 100 million (and need to remove a lot of duplicate users), how much advertising revenue can you have each year? Even if the advertising revenue surges in the future, we must also consider: how does the platform share the accounts with the authors, and how to encourage quality authors to come out? Starting point, Jinjiang’s “by chapterThe word-paying system provides the author with the biggest and most direct incentive. If the new author can’t see the income immediately, how can he have the motivation to continue to write it down? How can he believe that the platform gives his advertising revenue a fair share? ?

In this case, why read a text, palm reading, but also to do a free reading app? Moreover, they have invested a lot of energy and promotion costs in this regard. Is it just defensive behavior? In fact, reading this business for free may be really done by reading the “old dominator”. In other words: Only a strong, deep paid reading system can make free reading a sustainable business.

The above conclusion seems to be a bit sloppy. How to prove it? We still ask a series of questions. First, in China, which is the most free and richest platform for online novels?

Do not sell off the customs, directly announce the correct answer: QQ reading, which is the largest paid reading platform of the “Reading Department”.

Strange, why is a paid reading platform the most “free content”?

First of all, the “Reading Department” website, such as the Chinese website, has very high requirements for contracted authors; many new authors’ first books are not eligible for signing (no eligibility for paid subscriptions), and even write a lot. A few books and millions of words can’t be paid for, but that doesn’t mean the quality of the work is not good. All in all, there is a lot of free content (whether full or eunuch) in the “reading department” platform.

Secondly, the “Reading Department” platform will periodically introduce restrictions, in theory it is possible to read a book within the limited period. For some of the classic web pages that have a long history and have already paid for the time, it’s free. In other words, you can spend a penny and see a fairly good “should be paid” work.

Again, at the starting point of the main station, etc., generally speaking, at least two or three hundred thousand words will be put on sale, so readers can at least read the previous story for free, and will not be toll.

Read this war for free, laugh at the last possibility or read the article

(Starting point fantasy channel, the competition is very intense, the signing rate is only single digits)

The question is coming: Why is QQ reading and starting point free?Read the market and get it together? Why do competitors have free space to read apps, and even read the text themselves to launch a free reading app? Because QQ reading, the starting point is built around the “paid model”, most of the traffic and opportunities are given to the contract books; readers can also find a lot of free books, but after all, very tired. For those “light readers” who are not used to paying for reading, or who are really shy, the above platform is not a good choice. After all, this is a question of user experience.

If you have used flying reading, you will find that the main content above can be roughly divided into three types:

The first is an “old book” (such as “Ghost Blowing Light”) that has a long history, has already been completed, or has already passed the paid heat, or at least most of them. For the light readers and new readers, these “old books” are still very valuable for reading.

The second is to sign up on the “Reading Department” platform, but the payment is not high, it is difficult to rely on subscription to make money in the niche books. Because the content competition of the “Reading Department” platform is too fierce, the author has worked hard to sign contracts and seriously write updates, but found that only single-digit subscriptions are not uncommon. QQ reading, most of the starting point of the show, gave those head works or top new works. For ordinary authors, it is better to try to luck with flying and read a wave of free traffic.

The third is third-party content, electronic content of physical books, non-fiction content, and so on. This content may be important for some free reading apps, but for fly reading, it’s just a side dish.

For reading, reading, or any giant interested in Internet reading, the ideal situation is: relying on experience and data, build a “boutique content library” for paid reading; Then build a “free content library” for free reading. These two content libraries are not split, and the quality content can slowly become free content over time. This kind of thing cannot be solved by relying solely on big data and artificial intelligence, and must involve artificial judgment. Therefore, the long-term experience of reading texts and the huge editorial team may play a decisive role.

On the other hand, if the average author and the long-tail author can get enough attention while reading for free, the next work will probably enter the “excellent content library” and get enough resources to support it. In fact, at the starting point, the new authors of Jinjiang often discuss: Since there is no subscription for the new book, can we simply cancel the contract and take all the content to the WeChat public account, Weibo, Douban and other platforms for free serialization, at least Make personal. Now, they don’t have to worry about it anymore – just agree to get the work to fly to read (provided that the flight operating system is enough)Good, fair distribution of traffic).

Read this war for free, laugh at the last possibility or read the article

(Don’t tell me, there are a lot of people who are writing “single novels” in the watercress group)

In the long run, if you can build a system where both “content libraries” coexist (whether it’s reading, reading, or others), free reading and paid reading can really be safe. And the boundaries of web reading can be further broadened. Perhaps, the uncles who have rarely read the net text, or the little sister who never thought about watching the text, will really be attracted to it? The ceiling of the entire Internet reading market may increase. However, this is a long-term thing. In the short-term, there will be some conflicts between the free and paid models, and the emerging free-reading apps will really steal some paid readers after receiving a lot of resources. Therefore, reading the text must go to the business in person, and now it seems that “self-defense” is actually a pain.

How long does this pain last? Depending on the company’s operational efficiency, it also depends on the acceptance of the majority of authors, but also depends on the ability to generate substantial advertising revenue as soon as possible.

Operational efficiency of the company: This is a good understanding. Net reading is originally a re-operating industry. Importing traffic is only the first step. The key is how to retain users and let them see what they want and improve. Activity and loyalty. There is no magic bullet here, and experience is very important.

Acceptance of the majority of authors: For traditional big god writers and rising star writers, there are many opportunities to expose and make money, and they will not care about the flow and income brought by free reading. However, for ordinary authors, especially those who are interested in becoming professional writers, the flow of free reading may be crucial. If the platform can convince them as soon as possible, let them accept and support from the heart, the odds are even greater.

Generate substantial advertising revenue as soon as possible: As long as the MAU is large enough and the user is sticky enough, the free reading app can sell advertisements. QuestMobile estimates that the free reading market in 2020 can generate 4 billion advertising revenues; I don’t know how it is calculated, but the order of magnitude should be similar. The advertising revenue of hundreds of millions to billions is enough for a large free reading app to enter the profit range and achieve a virtuous circle of self-healing. The problem is, how do you do this as soon as possible?What about it?

The prospect of advertising revenue for free reading is unknown. What is the accounting method for it – CPM, CPC, CPL, CPS, or CPD (Day)? What product or tonality is it suitable for? Where should I place my ads? What if the users who read for free are mostly poor students? Can you focus on “internal diversion”, for example, from free reading to your own paid reading or game IP? After all, the time for the free reading market has been too short – even the earliest meters, tomatoes, and so far have only 15 months of operating history, and there is no stable user image. Perhaps in another 12 months, the target users of the free reading app will undergo huge changes, and the total number of users may be significantly higher than expected or lower than expected. At this time, it is too difficult to quantitatively measure the prospects of advertising.

In any case, in any era, any form of entertainment, what really appeals to users is the quality content itself. Every new work, the birth of each new theme, is attracting offline readers online, or turning online users into readers. Readers will follow the high-quality content – not one or two good books, one or two great authors, but a complete operating, nurturing and incubation system. As long as the source of new authors continues to emerge, and you can rely on writing books to survive, become rich, and become famous, high-quality content will continue to emerge, and this system can be maintained. In contrast, in the future, the growth point of the entire Internet reading industry is in the payment mode or the free mode, but it is a relatively minor issue.

Read this war for free, laugh at the last may still read the article

(Things are artificial, “I am forbidden by me”)

Speak a few off-topics: About 15 years ago, just after the Chinese website had just opened the payment function, the head of the group was studying at the university and once wrote a book in the dormitory. Don’t misunderstand, I am not the first signing author of the starting point. After all, there was already an “old god”. In the absence of Alipay, WeChat payment, and even online banking transfers are not popular, authors often need to go to the bank outlets to view the remuneration. My record is average. When the remuneration is the highest, it is only a thousand words and more than 40 yuan, but this is already a lot of money. After more than a year, I have updated six or seven hundred thousand words, and I really can’t continue to write it down. From then on, I have completely broken off the exams, looking for internships, looking for work, which is not more important than writing a book! Of course, even if you write downGoing, 100% is also impossible to become a great god writer. At that time, no one mentioned the concept of “IP” at all. The author’s greatest ideal is that one day he can see the publication of physical books. If someone returns to that time, they will say to everyone: “Net reading will become a very profitable industry. There will be several listed companies, and there will be a lot of capital going inside.” It will definitely be laughed at as a madman. The development of the industry is far ahead of everyone’s dreams. Who knows how much surprise the Internet can bring us? This is why I like the Internet industry.