Representatives from the freelance media, and some from paid-content program platforms, gather in Beijing for a year-end party in 2016. (DONG DALU / FOR CHINA DAILY)
A growing Chinese consumer audience has showed it will splash out on the right media and educational programs
Online companies are finally cashing in on infotainment content after years of giving it away for free.
Internet consumers have woken up to the fact that they need to pay for quality audio and visual programing as well as articles on a variety of topics.
To cater for this growing audience, an array of fee-based audio apps have sprung up, dealing with topics ranging from makeup skills to macroeconomics.
"This trend has been boosted by the convenience of online payment (portals) in China," said Liu Duo, director of the China Academy of Information and Communication Technology in Shanghai.
Last year, Chinese consumers spent 212.3 billion yuan (.3 billion) on digital content online, including novels, audios and videos.
This was a jump of 28 percent compared to the same period in 2015, data from a report released by Blue Lotus Research Institute in Hong Kong showed.
Figures from the investment bank JP Morgan Chase& Co also revealed that paid content "viewership" is likely to jump from 70 million in the first quarter to 234 million by 2020.
"Users are more willing to pay for quality digital content now," Liu said.
Cultural habits have changed in the past few years from downloading everything for free to paying for the right sort of content by using online services such as Alipay, which is part of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, and Tencent Holdings Ltd's WeChat Pay.
In turn, this has triggered a new wave of online startups and podcasts like Luoji Siwei, or Logical Thinking, a talk show program.
Wang Xiuqin, a university administration clerk in Shanghai, has been an avid fan for the past six months and watches it on her way to work. She also pays for it, forking out an annual subscription of 199 yuan.
"Work can sometimes contain trivial stuff," the 33-year-old said. "But watching this show opens a window to economics and avantgarde arts. I love it."
Luoji Siwei is aired on Ximalaya FM, which is run by Yu Jianjun, the co-chief executive officer.
In recent years, he has noticed a distinct change in online consumer habits.
"They are maturing and evolving from aimlessly accepting whatever is displayed online to consciously choosing content curators that can promise high-quality programs," Yu said.
Naturally, Ximalaya has moved with the times after initially gaining a faithful following for audio books and user-generated content.
Founded in 2012, the new media company has been pumping more resources into high-quality programing and professional content, although it declined to disclose detailed financial figures.A boy listens to an audio program presented by Ximalaya at a fair featuring audio books and user-generated content in Shanghai. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
Still, Ximalaya has generated 60 million audio feeds produced by more than 200,000 "experts" from a wide range of fields, including banking, insurance, literature and human resources.