2018’s first major tech trend in China: Live Q&A

You may have heard the aphorism “Knowledge is power, and power can be converted into money.” But one might ask, how? Like launching a startup? Or obtaining a lofty position at a prestigious enterprise? You may be weary of obstacles like the lack of opportunities or perhaps that launching a startup to convert knowledge to money takes entirely too much time. Imagine there’s a knowledge-based opportunity to make money. And as long as you answer all the questions correctly, you are guaranteed a reward, just like the protagonist in the film “Slumdog Millionaire”. You’re in luck, because this can be now be achieved everyday, everywhere — using just your smartphone.

Recently, some Chinese netizens have begun using their knowledge to make money via app-based Question & Answer (Q&A) live-streaming challenges in a format resembling that of Jeopardy. Here “knowledge” is not like “How to make a suitable marketing strategy” or “buying the best company’s stock options” but instead refers to more quiz-like, factoid-based question challenges like “Which country did the Battle of Marathon take place in?” or “Who is _______ actress’s husband?” In these challenges, participants are required to give the right answer within the given time limit. This is the top trending model in China recently: Live Q&A.

This is not the traditional knowledge contest that you may have participated in during your high school days when only the best students could join and only a few of them might receive an award. The Live Q&A model, by comparison, is an online live-streaming quiz challenge, one that allows simultaneous participation from a large number of users. Moreover, as long as you finish all of the challenge’s questions according to the requirements, you are guaranteed to ultimately obtain a reward of some kind.

For example, an app named Chongdingdahui launched at the end of December of 2017 ranked seventh in total downloads from the Chinese App Store on January 4th of this year. Chongdingdahui is a representative example of an app that has benefited immensely from the Live Q&A trend. Chongdingdahui regularly hosts live-streaming Q&A challenges, and each with 12 multiple-choice questions. Respondents must give answers for each question within 10 seconds. Respondents are eliminated if they provide a wrong answer or fail to make a choice within ten seconds. Respondents who get all answers correct will share in the overall reward. This is expressed as the “rush to the end” in Chinese. When fewer respondents “rush to the end” each receives a higher reward, of up to the maximum of RMB 5000 in the case of Chongdingdahui.

Screenshot from Chongdingdahui.

According to Chongdingdahui, the reward for each of its Q&A challenges exceeds RMB 200,000 (USD 30,646). Take the results on January 4 as an example. Of the tens of thousands who participated in the challenge, over 300 respondents proceeded through all 12 questions and each received a reward of RMB 617.

Regularly, Chongdingdahui launches three live streaming Q&A challenges daily. In fact, more and more companies are following this trend by launching similar content on their existing platforms.

Just weeks ago, on January 3rd, Wang Sicong — one of China’s most popular web celebrities and son of China’s richest man and real estate tycoon Wang Jianlin — said on Weibo that he was willing to hand out cash rewards on Chongdingdahui. That night, he awarded RMB 100,000 (USD 15,323) during a live challenge. In addition to financing the Q&A Challenge, Wang participated in designing the Chongdingdahui App.

Here are some insights to why Live Q&A challenges have recently witnessed such a boom:

  1. Frequent live-streaming Q&A challenges: Users can set apps to notify them about upcoming challenges, ensuring opportunities aren’t missed. With notifications, game developers can rest assured they can maintain users’ attention.
  2. Time limitations: Respondents are required to provide answers within 10 seconds, a timeframe too short to consult search engines for answers. This helps create challenges in which only a relative few can prevail.
  3. Tournament system: Once respondents submit an incorrect answer, they are immediately eliminated. Every time an answer is published, respondents can see the remaining number of participants. After each question, the number inevitably decreases, creating a competitive atmosphere and a exciting sense of suspense, not entirely different from playing an exciting computer game like League of Legends.
  4. Social promotion: Participants are given a one-time elimination exemption if they invite a friend to join. Meanwhile, Q&A challenges are both educational and fun, and suitable for old and young. Their appealing and accessible nature helps attract a large userbase.
  5. Reward: Of course, the biggest attraction is money. However, rewards on many live Q&A challenge platforms are decreasing due to increasing number of users and therefore an increasing number of users who can “rush to the end.”

The above points explain why live Q&A challenges have proved so prosperous in China, and why the’ve quickly emerged as as a top trend in 2018. Because the format has become quite popular and is easily copied, many other related platforms are launching their own live Q&A challenges, including live-streaming platforms, content-release platforms, as well as news aggregator giant Toutiao.

For the time being, the Q&A challenges are burning investors’ money yet attracting users’ attention. Also, because of the format’s success, tech giants will continue to allocate money for challenge rewards in and effort to attract attention from users. In this era, users’ time and attention for online activities is limited, which means the companies and applications that can occupy more users’ time and attention will enjoy more traffic and ultimately more opportunities for profit. Though live Q&A challenges may appear to waste a great deal of cash, compared to traditional methods of advertising and user onboarding, the cost of supplying cash rewards for challenges is relatively inexpensive.

Furthermore, live Q&A challenges have much potential for profit in the future. For example, they might serve as a bridge to connect content and brands, which can be useful for social media promotion aimed at attracting new users. Meanwhile, thanks to their abundant traffic, live Q&A platforms will surely prove an effective avenue for advertisement.

We can’t precisely predict the lifespan of this new trend; perhaps its novelty in the minds of users will soon expire. But for now, it unquestionably demonstrates the power of the Internet and new media. And perhaps it gives some indication of the direction of future trends.