Q&A site becoming platform for celebrity gossip: experts

By Ding Xuezhen Source:Global Times Published: 2016/6/12 20:18:01

Photo: IC

If you could ask the only son of China's richest man anything, what would it be? Would you want to know what kind of girl he likes? Or would you want to hear the self-styled philosopher's views on the nature of the human condition?

Well, Fenda, an online question-and-answer platform, is offering you the chance. The site has recently drawn massive attention after Wang Sicong, son of Wanda tycoon Wang Jianlin, joined the platform and added to his already considerable fortune simply by answering a few questions.

In less than two weeks, Wang earned more than 240,000 yuan ($36,600) by answering 32 questions. He has since raised the cost of an answer from 3,000 yuan to 4,999 yuan.

Many of the questions put to the young playboy were highly personal. For instance, one user paid 3,000 yuan to ask the 28-year-old "what if your girlfriend had an unwanted pregnancy?" Wang admitted that around eight years ago his then girlfriend had an abortion.

Such questions triggered debates over Fenda's future as observers questioned whether the site has based its business on celebrity' gossip.


Compared with its competitor Zhihu, Fenda is more "lightweight," as its users just need to provide a one-minute or shorter voice message as an answer while Zhihu users have to provide "lengthy and complete" answers to win likes, Wei Wuhui, an expert on the Internet and new media studies at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, told the Global Times.

People can only answer questions in a superficial way on Fenda as a 60-second message is not long enough to go in-depth on any topic, Wei said.

"Knowledge sharing is part of the sharing economy," said Zhu Wei, deputy director of the Communications Law Research Center at the China University of Political Science and Law.

In the past, such knowledge sharing was conducted in a one-way manner but is becoming increasingly interactive, Zhu said, noting that both the answerer and asker can make money on Fenda.

Fenda users have to pay an "eavesdropping fee" of 0.5 yuan to both the asker and the replier if they want to hear the answer to a question.

"Many actively ask questions on Fenda as it has a revenue-sharing mechanism," said Ji Shisan, founder and CEO of Fenda's parent company Guokr - a popular science website, the Shanghai Observer reported.

As more people start asking questions, greater numbers of users will spend time thinking of a good question to make money, Ji said, noting that it would contribute to a "virtuous cycle."


However, experts are not optimistic about Fenda's future, expressing doubts about whether the site's success can be sustainable.

The core of the site's success is its use of celebrities, but unlike a solid community of users these people are unlikely to keep generating content for the site in the long term, said Luo Chao, an Internet industry commentator, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

"The way the site works does not encourage the communication of knowledge and lowers the efficiency of knowledge sharing as voice messages are not the best method of knowledge sharing," Luo said, noting that Fenda is mainly used by fans to probe into celebrities' private lives.

Wei also argued that Fenda's eavesdropping mechanism might encourage the platform's questions and answers to mainly deal with gossip rather than answers rich in knowledge as this can gain more attention, and therefore money.

Embracing the fan economy might be Fenda's future development direction. "The knowledge economy is not the opposite of the fan economy," Ji told the Shanghai Observer, noting that "it would be good if we could bring a number of Web celebrities into the knowledge economy."

"Fenda is something more like a communication tool, a way to conduct online hype," Zhu said.

Fenda said it attracted over 1 million paying users and 200,000 askers in the first three days after it was launched, Southern Daily reported.

Fenda - a product of the Guokr subsidiary and knowledge-sharing platform Zaih - and Zaih itself, have completed Round A financing and has been valued at over $100 million, Ji said Wednesday on WeChat, Web portal qq.com reported.

Newspaper headline: Cash for questions

Posted in: Society

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