Do China’s celebrity-fueled Q&A apps put a fair price on knowledge?
When Wu Jingping quit China’s national ping-pong team as coach in July 2016, having helped achieve four Olympic gold medals at Rio, he imagined his life in the public eye was over. Six months later, Wu was back—this time as a “celebrity author” on Weibo Q&A, part of a burgeoning cash-for-questions industry.
Since its launch in December, 2016, Weibo Q&A has joined Fenda (“One-Minute Answers”) as one of China’s most profitable knowledge-sharing platforms. These differ from sites like Quora, Zhihu, and Reddit by charging for questions and answers: Users pay “experts” a fee to answer personalized questions, either in a 60-second voice message (Fenda) or a written answer (Weibo). Others then pay 1 RMB to “view” the answer. The fees from viewers are split between the initial asker and the expert who answers, with the platform taking a percentage—imagine a celebrity AMA, in which potentially everyone stands to make a little money.
After 26 years coaching ping-pong players like Olympians Ma Lin, Wang Hao, and Xu Xin, Wu Jingping was looking for new opportunities to share his talents when Weibo Q&A came along. On February 8, Wu received a message, soliciting his expertise on the platform. Wu spent over 10 days studying the rules before finally making up his mind to join. He has since answered around 150 questions, and Weibo Q&A has become Wu’s primary method of communicating with fans.
A Question of Cash is a story from our issue, “Wheel Life China.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.