How a Chinese news app is boosting engagement by paying users

by Auguste Yung
Oct 30, 2018 in Mobile Journalism

A new Chinese media app named Bingdu not only allows users to read the news, but also gives them the chance to make money by sharing in the app’s advertising revenue.

After downloading and signing in to the app, users receive money depending on their level of engagement with news stories. Bingdu, which was developed and released by the Chinese tabloid Southern Metropolis Daily, awards points based on factors including the amount of stories read and how frequently the user shares stories within their social networks. These points can then be exchanged for money or gifts.

As Southern Metropolis Daily is part of the massive Southern Media Group, based in Guangzhou, China, Bingdu features stories published by Southern Media Group’s various platforms. Drawing from such an array of sources allows Bingdu to feature everything from serious investigative reporting to more lighthearted entertainment stories.

The app has become wildly popular, reaching nearly 80 million downloads. Anybody using Bingdu should not have illusions of becoming rich, however. Users average fewer than 50 points a day, which can be exchanged for US$0.04. In an interview with Storybench, Fei Wang, the editorial director of Bingdu, noted that money making is only a small, albeit attention-grabbing, portion of the app.

“Monetizing the reading experience is just a gimmick to attract users,” he said. “We are aware that we could not count on this to keep their attention forever.”

Attracting so many users has allowed Bingdu to gather data to help developers and editors understand the needs and preferences of their readers, which then allows Bingdu to deliver stories on certain topics in which readers have shown an interest.

Despite the app’s popularity, Fei Wang acknowledged that they are still feeling out different models for Bingdu.

“Although our rewards system has been a great success, we are still exploring the business operation model because our revenue is not enough to cover the marketing promotion cost and what it costs to run the business,” he told Storybench. “We need to attract financing constantly to bring in new talent, pay back the users, and so on.”

Asked what that future might look like, Fei responded “Our goal is to build a platform that operates somewhat like a modern lifestyle look book, through which users can easily find what they want and purchase the service or products they want with a few clicks.”

Via Storybench

Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Kevin Dooley.