Report reveals huge potential of China's paid knowledge industry
Updated 21:50, 13-Oct-2018
By Wang Qiwei
A recent report by Chinese consulting group iResearch says the country's online paid knowledge industry was worth 700 million US dollars last year, but the number is expected to reach over three billion by 2020.
More Chinese people are now convinced by the power of e-learning. How has the concept of "paying for knowledge" become such a money-spinner in China?
Zhang Lei is a student and often gets answers to questions such as "How to manage time efficiently?" on her smartphone apps.
As an active user of paid knowledge applications, she recently bought an English language course to improve her profile in the jobs market.
"I can use my spare time to learn new skills, and it saves me the trouble of going to an offline class, and it's also much cheaper. I have already spent up to 2,000 yuan on paid knowledge content," said Zhang.
With Chinese people's increasing urge for self-improvement and the convenience of mobile payment, many online platforms have emerged to satisfy their needs, featuring lessons in podcasts and short videos, covering a wide range of subjects.
And the shifting mindset of Chinese people towards "paying for knowledge" is creating a lucrative online market for self-learning. Leading knowledge-sharing platforms have taken note.
"According to our data, we had a 530-percent increase in revenue on our platform last year. About 20 teachers on our platform had a monthly income of more than a million yuan," said Zhang Bin, marketing director of Youdao Online Education.
However, with the rapid development of the industry, issues such as copyright protection have emerged. 
To counter these, the Chinese government introduced tough anti-piracy regulations and cracked down on illegal content. And many believe this has now opened the door for the sustainable development of the industry.
"People have more and more spiritual pursuits nowadays, and in the future, the online paid knowledge industry will even use VR and AR technologies to present more diversified content," said Liu Xingliang, president of DCCI Data Center of China Internet.
"But I think the core still remains in the areas of information and knowledge," Liu added. 
So the potential is certainly there, but it remains to be seen whether the industry will stand the test of time, and benefit an even larger number of knowledge-seekers.