Paid Contents, The Temporary Placebo To Middle Class Identity Anxiety
摘要： In the era of economic depression, lipsticks’ sales often skyrocketed, since they could temporarily sooth people; in the era of middle class anxiety, however, “paid contents” are as much-needed as “lipsticks”.
In the era of economic depression, lipsticks’ sales often skyrocketed, since they could temporarily sooth people; in the era of middle class anxiety, however, “paid contents” are as much-needed as “lipsticks”.
Although they aren’t as expensive as school district houses, they can still provide some sort of short comfort. This is also why Luo Zhenyu often mentioned the concept “growing along with users” via his Dedao APP.
Internet streaming VS paid contents & loser economy VS middle-class economy
This era witnessed the boom of virtual products. On the one hand, internet streaming is burgeoning and it’s quite often for a streamer to receive millions of gift points; on the other hand, paid content is still on the rise. All of a sudden, it seems that every kind of knowledge is worthwhile and their value can be marked clearly.
While internet streaming is the best symbol of “loser economy”, paid content often target the middle class.
The success of “internet streaming” can be easily told from the tens of thousands of streamers. MC Tianyou is certainly one of the most successful internet streamers in 2016. By voicing the feelings of grassroots internet users, he’s attracted millions of fans and has risen into a celebrity worthy of over RMB 100 million. Luo Zhenyu, however, is the best representative of the success of “paid content”. In fact, he has no fewer fans than popular internet streamers.
Quite interestingly, attitudes towards both popular internet streamers like MC Tianyou and players of the middle class economy like Luo Zhenyu are not positive on the Chinese Q&A platform Zhihu.
MC Tianyou is commonly referred to as the symbol of “low-end” on Zhihu. Being a middle school graduate, he is known for catchy songs with unofficial lyrics. How can you expect that he will be accepted by the mainstream knowledge elite.
The majority of Zhihu users are middle class individuals who believe that they would make their lives better through hard working. They often graduate from major universities and attach high importance to steady social ladders. For them, MC Tianyou’s success is an outright anomaly.
However, attitudes towards Luo Zhenyu are also quite negative, though he certainly belongs to the middle class.
On Zhihu, he is often compared with Gao Xiaosong. While Gao has a superior family background, Luo is more like a “vendor of second-hand knowledge”, according to some Zhihu users.
Emphasis on social identity is an inevitable topic on Zhihu, which perfectly reflects the middle class’s identity anxiety.
Paid contents promises social identity
Identity anxiety actually reflects the need for social recognition.
Based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, internet streaming meets people’s need for social networking and respect, while paid content meets people’s need for social networking and self-fulfillment.
However, they meet people’s need for social networking in two directly opposite ways. While the audience of internet streaming want to feel a sense of identity recognition, streamers have to demonstrate to fans that they are the same as the audience and they fully respect the audience if they want to succeed. The audience give gift points to streamers believing that they are the same with streamers and that they want people of their humor can succeed.
As to paid content, however, consumers are willing to pay for such contents because they want to elevate themselves by learning from people of higher social status. Therefore, if paid content providers want to succeed, they have to demonstrate to consumers that they are indeed more potent than ordinary users and one have to elevate himself or herself in order to be as knowledgeable and successful as paid content providers. Consumers are willing to pay for such contents because they want to be the same with paid content providers through learning.
While target users of internet streaming are often confident of their identity, users of paid content are often uncertain of their identity. While they need to clarify their identity through definite instructions, paid contents perfectly meet such needs. In this sense, there is no essential difference between paid content and LV purses.
As a matter of fact, a threshold has already been set up between users who are willing to pay for certain contents and those who won’t. If one can demonstrate his or her identity and stand out from the large majority of ordinary users simply by paying 9.9 yuan for a Zhihu Live activity, few people will say no.
Today’s paid contents are like “lipsticks” in economic depression
Paid content consumers also attempt to meet their need for self-fulfillment.
For the middle class, the pursuit of self-fulfillment should have been a steady process. Therefore, MC Tianyou’s overnight popularity is certainly not of their interest. On the contrary, knowledge is something concrete but vital to success.
At this point, when the value of some knowledge is marked clearly, they are quite willing to pay for certain knowledge. Oftentimes, they are aware of the importance of knowledge, but not quite sure what kind of knowledge they need most.
In the era of economic depression, lipsticks’ sales often skyrocketed, since they could temporarily sooth people; in the era of middle class anxiety, however, “paid contents” are as much-needed as “lipsticks”. Although they aren’t as expensive as school district houses, they can still provide some sort of short comfort.
Although most people don’t really understand what kind of knowledge they need most, they are certain about one thing: the more knowledge they grasp, the better they will become. Who knows? Such knowledge may prove to be useful someday.
As a matter of fact, people’s blind pursuit of knowledge is quite similar to people’s preference towards school district houses. Most people want to buy school district houses believing that everybody else are doing so. Such mentality applies to paid contents. In an era of knowledge explosion, almost everybody is trying their best to acquire new knowledge through all kinds of media such as Zhihu, Guokr, Dedao, Ximalaya, TMTPost, etc., fearing that they might lose any opportunity to learn new things.
However, since nobody can afford to buy school district houses, they can at least afford paid contents as a compromise. As long as the middle class anxiety persists, paid contents will have target consumers. From this aspect, the boom of the paid contents market may be as long-lasting as the real estate market
[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @Li Xiaoer please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]
Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.