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December 4, 2018updated 30 Sep 2022 7:12am

Chinese news app pays users to read articles in battle for engagement in ‘eyeball economy’

By James Walker

A Chinese news app is paying people to read its articles in an effort to keep them more engaged and track their long-term behaviour, with one user bagging almost £40,000 so far.

News aggregator Qutoutiao, which is backed by Chinese tech giant Tencent, pitches itself as a platform that focuses on “light reading”.

Its users make digital gold coins by referring friends to the app and playing games while reading stories.

One Chinese yuan is made per 1,600 digital coins at the current exchange rate. According to Reuters, the highest ranked earner on the app has made more than $50,000 (£39,054).

Qutoutiao chief financial officer Wang Jingbo told Reuters: “It’s the eyeball economy. Previously, people had to spend money to see content, but with the changing internet they no longer have to pay.

“Not only are they not paying – users now need to earn something as well.”

In its profile for investors, Qutoutiao said: “The gamified loyalty point system not only helps us keep users more engaged and enhance user stickiness, but also enables us to track users’ long-term behavior and optimize content recommendation.”

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In its unaudited third quarter results for this year, the news aggregator claims to have more than 21m daily users who use the app for just under an hour a day on average.

Its third-quarter report put revenue at $142.3m (£111.15m), more than double that made in the second quarter. But sales and marketing expenses outstripped its revenue, costing the firm $152.1m (£118.8m) pver tj.

Since it came online in 2016, Qutoutiao has drummed up more than $200m (£156m) from three funding rounds.

When it launched an Initial Public Offering on US stock market Nasdaq in September, the app firm’s share price rocketed by almost 130 per cent to just under $16 a share.

The share price of Qutoutiao (or “fun headlines” in English) has since fallen to a little more than $4 a share.

Picture: Qutoutiao/Screencap

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