China’s online literature gets 460 million domestic readers and heats up globally

China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) recently released the 47th “Statistical Report on Internet Development in China” in Beijing. The report shows that as of December 2020, the size of China’s Internet users reached 989 million, an increase of 85.4 million from March 2020, and the Internet penetration rate reached 70.4%.

As of December 2020, the scale of China’s online literature readers reached 460 million, up 4.75 million from March 2020, accounting for 46.5% of the overall Internet users in China; the scale of cell phone online literature readers reached 459 million, up 6.22 million from March 2020, accounting for 46.5% of cell phone Internet users.

The continued development of China’s online literature industry in 2020 has injected new vitality into this traditional online entertainment business, with changes mainly reflected in two aspects: industry development and market competition.

In terms of industry development, the willingness of readers to pay and the continuous improvement of the author’s creative environment have jointly pushed the industry to a new level.

First, the willingness of Chinese readers to pay has increased significantly.

As online literature platforms in China continue to strengthen content creation support, optimize the work recommendation system, the readers’ willingness to pay for quality works has been further enhanced.

Data show that the average monthly payment of a single user of the Yuewen Group increased from 22.5 yuan in the first half of 2019 to 34.1 yuan in the first half of 2020, an increase of 51.6%. The growth in readers’ willingness to pay pushed its online business revenue up 101.9% year-on-year.

Second, the platforms are more flexible in the way it cooperates with authors.

Although China’s online literature industry has developed more mature, the cooperation between the platforms and authors is very rigid and single, which is not conducive to stimulating the creative energy of upstream authors.

To this end, some influential network literature platforms have been used to cancel the previous single-format contract, for the development of different writers to provide a variety of optional contracts, so that authors can choose their own way to authorize their works and cash, to expand the rights and interests of authors and encourage content creation.

Third, the copyright protection mechanism in China continues to improve.

In August, the Text Copyright Protection Working Committee of the China Copyright Association was officially established, and jointly initiated the joint declaration of “Text Copyright Protection Cooperation” with relevant practitioners to establish a genuine content protection mechanism and promote further protection of the rights and interests of online literature authors. With the improvement of the rights of online literature authors, the rights and responsibilities of both platforms and authors have become clearer, laying the foundation for the healthy development of the industry on the track of equality and mutual benefit and harmonious coexistence.

In terms of market competition, the involvement of large Internet companies has further promoted competition in the online literature industry. With the increasingly close linkage of the online culture and entertainment industry, the online literature business is increasingly being valued by large Internet companies.

In April, Yuewen Group announced that it will form a deeper linkage with Tencent in film, animation, and games in the future.

In November, ByteDance acquired 11.23% of the shares in the mobile reading distribution platform Zhangyue Technology through its subsidiary, and became the third largest shareholder of Zhangyue Technology, marking the beginning of ByteDance’s deployment of online literature business.

In addition, “Shuqi Novels” launched a light application on Taobao, and entered the free digital reading market based on the user traffic of Taobao platform. In the future, it is expected that large Internet companies represented by Tencent and ByteDance will further expand their investment in online literature business, thereby promoting continuous innovation in the industry and synergy between the upstream and downstream of the industry chain.

Furthermore, according to the “2020 White Paper on the Development of Online Literature Overseas” (hereinafter referred to as the “White Paper”) released by the first Shanghai International Internet Literature Week on November 16, 2020, Chinese online literature is being welcomed and recognized by more and more global readers. In terms of the overall scale of online literature going overseas, as of 2019, China has exported more than 10,000 online literature works overseas, covering more than 40 countries and regions along the “Belt and Road”. The activeness of overseas readers on China’s online literature platforms has continued to rise, and overseas authors have become an important creative force. Since the opening of its overseas creation platform in April 2018, Qidian International has attracted over 100,000 overseas creators and created over 160,000 online literary works.

Relying on unique cultural features and novel writing styles, and taking advantage of the efficient and fast communication form of the Internet, the “Chinese Internet Literature Fever” is continuing to heat up worldwide. The role played by China’s online literature in global cultural exchanges have also received increasing attention.

According to the analysis of the “White Paper”, there are currently three major trends in China’s online literature going overseas: the expansion of translation scale, the global blossoming of original creation, and the collaboration of IP to go overseas. With the continuous cooperation of Qidian International and translators from all over the world, the number of Chinese online literature English translation works on the platform continues to grow, which has exceeded 1,700. In terms of external authorization, Yuewen Group has authorized digital publishing and physical book publishing in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, as well as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Turkey and other places, and authorized more than 700 works.

The “White Paper” survey of overseas authors’ creative motives shows that interest and initial desire for story creation are the main forces for driving creation. In addition to interest, becoming a full-time writer, film and television adaptation of works, and paper publication are also the main motivations for the authors’ continuous creation.

As early as 2001, when the development of China’s network literature just started, it had already started the road of overseas communication. From the initial authorization of overseas publishing of web articles, to the construction of overseas platforms and content output of web articles, to the opening of overseas originals and IP adaptation output, to the joint efforts of all parties to build a global industrial chain and jointly cultivate content and IP development, the road of Chinese online literature going abroad has been evolving and getting wider and wider.

Source: CNNIC and Guangming Daily

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