Major Chinese internet players are pumping millions of dollars into building "knowledge-sharing" platforms.
They are all scrambling to entice a new breed of online user that is eager to learn, or be entertained, and is willing to pay for the experience.
Tencent Holdings Ltd has confirmed it will help "content creators" cash in on internet material via subscription fees on WeChat, the country's most popular social media app with more than 900 million active users.
Since February, trial invitations have been sent to certain WeChat accounts to test the function for paid content. In fact, this is the app's latest attempt to steer its vast user base toward the so-called "Paid Knowledge Era" in China.
Already it has introduced the "Mangzhong 2.0" project, a 200 million yuan (29.4 million) fund, which helps subsidize freelancers and individual contributors that upload original, high-quality content on Tencent-backed platforms.
"Content is going to become the next traffic inlet and Tencent will try to establish a leading position in the marketplace, with the introduction of paid content in its WeChat accounts," said Neil Wang, president for consultancy at Frost & Sullivan Greater China.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is also making similar moves overseas.
Earlier this year, the internet giant rolled out We Media Reward Plan 2, an India-based content platform.
"This falls under Alibaba Digital Media and Entertainment Group's targeted investment of $7.2 billion in content during the next three years," said He Xiaopeng, president of Alibaba's Mobile Business Group.
Under a previous plan, up to 1,000 content writers were recruited in India and Indonesia. They were paid at least $774 per month through the UC News platform, which is partly-owned by Alibaba.
Sina Weibo, which is China's answer to Twitter, also launched a paid subscription feature in December known as Weibo Ask.
Users can get the answers to an encyclopedia full of questions for a sliding-scale fee.
This trend toward paid content is gathering pace.
Roughly 55 percent of the 1,700 online consumers surveyed by the research division of Tencent said they had paid for expert knowledge and insight.
"Three quarters of users were willing to pay for quality content, while 52 percent believed high-quality content providers deserved to be paid," a joint poll on internet users by Guokr.com, a Chinese science and technology news site, and internet firm Netease Inc reported.
From China Daily