SOS reader: We Found a Group of People Willing to Pay for the Content
Translated by Jessie C.
“Do you like the mainstream media in Taiwan?” asked Zi-Qi Weng in the right beginning of the talk. He is the founder as well as the CEO of a subscription-based crowdfunding platform SOS reader.
Last February, Weng and his partners set up SOS news crowdfunding platform. “We found that the content in mainstream media was controlled by ads. In order to attract clicks, loads of sensational titles written in content farm-style appeared. Due to the weird phenomenon, we wondered if we could pull out the role of ‘advertisers’ from the industry structure, and supported the content providers only by readers subscription.”
“Some people might misunderstand SOS, thinking that we’re a magazine publisher since the most successful cases on SOS were coincidentally related to publications. However, we actually positioned ourselves as a platform.” Weng explained.
Subscription-based Crowdfunding Can Really Help the Content Providers
“The purpose and intention of the general crowdfunding is to ‘push you at the beginning.’” Weng indicated that, in this case, the goal could only be set once and last for one to two months, so the founders could not keep raising fund on the platform for their projects’ further development. Besides, if you want to start a fund for your project again, the backers’ standard would be higher. As a result, the general crowdfunding is not a suitable way for the content providers to get their support.
After taking lots of foreign platforms as a an example, such as Patreon, the “SOS news crowdfunding” was born. Here, they choose to end up a project by the writers’ performance rather than set a firm deadline limit. People can spend 149 NT dollars per month to subscribe and support their favorite authors, and read all of the content provided on the platform. In this way, not only can the readers enjoy “commercial free” reading experience, but they can have some discussion with the writers. 30% of the subscriptions would be taken by the platform. Now, the SOS has already attracted lots of famous content providers in different areas and each of them has their followers.
Would Readers Really Pay for Good Content?
“SOS news crowdfunding” changed their name to “SOS reader” this August, proclaiming various kind (not only news) of content on the platform. After one-and-a-half-year management, the SOS team discovered that more and more people demand for buying good content.
“People always asked me the same question ‘Would anyone really pay for the content?’” Weng revealed that they now have 5,000 paid members (= 30% of the total amount of members on the SOS). Thus, he holds a positive attitude toward the answer.
According to Weng’s observation, some authors on the platform are restricted by the ideology of the media they belong, but can freely express their thoughts on SOS. Such kind of authors have devoted to a specific area for a long time, and earn their own fame and followers. The “author” becomes a brand, and that is what the readers believe and are willing to pay for.
“We would discuss with the authors whether they can customize their articles for the reader on SOS or write something they really want. For example, Yi-Xi Huang is a incisive movie critic. However, her writing style on SOS are wide-ranging.” The inevitable paradox of content providers is that hoping the content to be read by more people but having to consider “user charge” for the paid members as well. SOS reader give the decision to the authors. For instance, one of the author Dan Wang wrote 4 articles a month, and he only made half of them free reading. Everything on the platform is created by the value of content and the inducer encouraging readers to pay.
Weng called this kind of subscription “Empower the Reader.” Readers can help the content being produced, and most of the feedback for them is the content itself.
To Be a Platform or a Media? That Is a Question
Although the SOS received a good result in the first year, however the subscription-based crowdfunding become more and more common in Taiwan. How can SOS reader highlight their features in such a competitive circumstance?
“At first, it was the qualified authors that bring the new readers in. Our next step is to take care of the qualified readers.” Weng is trying to redefine the SOS reader. After his team interviewed several authors and users, they decided to let the authors set the subscription price by themselves, start from this August.
Now, more and more people want to be an author, so Weng has to start thinking the question “Should SOS be a blog or a media?”
“I’m the CEO, and I have to support my team. To think from the business angle, SOS is better to become a platform, choosing the content to display by categorizing and rendering. But this is pretty struggle, if we have an amount of data traffic, we can decide what should the readers read and which author should we put the spotlight on. And that’s also what our team expect. But to see in a different way, if SOS reader acquires a million likes from the fans, would it attract more qualified authors?” Which one is exactly better? Weng hasn’t made his decision yet.
Although SOS reader is still in the process of trial and error, they definitely find a group of readers in the “content-worthless” generation. This group of people are different from the others. The rate they revisiting the site is higher and the time they lingering on the site is longer. The small but strong group is willing to pay and really faithful.
“No matter which direction we finally decide to go, the initial passion — offering good content to the readers would never be left alone.”That’s what Weng would always stick to from head to toe.
中文版連結Cover photo via Eugene Kim@flickr, CC License