Why Zhihu is not China’s Quora: A Content Creator’s Perspective

Zhihu, a Chinese-language Q&A platform, just IPOed. While many people say it is China’s Quora, I found Zhihu unique from a content creator’s angle.

Backed up by elite professionals like Bob Xu and Kai-Fu Lee, Zhihu was invite-only for its first two years. From 2016 to 2018, there was a user shift from higher to lower-end consumers and a content shift from academic to entertaining.

Zhihu’s user composition in 2016 vs. 2018. Colors from up to bottom represent consumers from the high to the lower end.

By 2019, Zhihu reported 48m monthly active users and 315m questions.

Top 10 social networking apps by MAU. Zhihu is #6 with 48m users.

While Quora writers mainly profit from the partner program and soft sell, Zhihu’s superapp site provides diverse ways to interact and monetize:

  • exclusive live events
  • online video/audio courses
  • digital books
  • consulting services
  • tips from answers
Zhihu’s online courses labeled with prices

By summer 2018, Zhihu had 15k knowledge-sharing products, 5k content creators, and 6m paid users. The site optimizes creator experience through analysis tools, creator privileges, MCN integrations, copyright services, etc.

Zhihu’s creator center aggregates the many tools and services.

Zhihu’s answer recommendation algorithm seeks balance between KOLs and general users, so even new users can surface quickly.

  • Differentiate products with a unique persona and perspective. Just like most social apps, Zhihu can be a winner-take-all for KOLs. When the top influencers have tens of thousands of customers, smaller content creators struggle to persuade the audience to pay.
  • Keep content professional and detailed while easy to digest. Filling answers with lots of hardcore reasoning, scientific equations, and jargon can attract some admirers; the audience however tends to pay for content more digestible and actionable.
  • You can get filtered and banned for political “keywords” and unfriendly interactions.
  • You interact with a much younger user group than on Quora.
On Zhihu, ~60% of users are under 30 (Airui, 2020)

Gonna keep it short and fun. Let me know what you wanna learn about Creator Economy and China Tech so I can share my perspectives in the future :)






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Cindy X. L.

Tech influencer (125k on Weibo), Web3 founder, Google engineer, Columbia alum. Tapia 2021 speaker. Talk Crypto, GameFi, China tech, and creator economy. DYOR.