ByteDance’s question-and-answer site Wukong Wenda, which means “The Money King Question and Answer”, on Wednesday announced that it will stop to service the app and integrate its content into the news aggregator Jinri Toutiao. Wukong will be removed from app stores on January 20, and will cease to function on February 3.
Creators can still contribute on news app Jinri Toutiao and Wukong’s website, which will continue to be operational. “We will increase investment in Toutiao Q&A in the future, so please keep your enthusiasm for creating and consuming content,” reads the announcement.
Wukong was launched as a standalone app along with a website in 2017, almost at the same time when ByteDance launched short video app Douyin. It was conceived as an upgraded version of Toutiao’s Q&A section and pitched against its competitor Zhihu.
In 2017, Wukong poached more than 300 influencers from Zhihu by offering tempting bonuses. In order to boost its content, ByteDance pledged to pour RMB 1 billion (USD 154 million) to contributors in 2018 and an additional RMB 500 million (USD 77.30 million) to the most qualified content creators. The money-throwing strategy seemed to work initially. Wukong said it reached more than 100 million users in 2017—and it also uplifted the popularity of Jinri Toutiao.
Then the problems began. On August 30, 2018, ByteDance, which was still known as Jinri Toutiao at the time, reportedly no longer considered Wukong as its main priority and combined its team with another unit. ByteDance denied, saying that it wasn’t abandoning the Q&A business. “We have been looking for synergies on a larger scale,” it said. In the meantime, Douyin took off.
Per data from QuestMobile, Wukong’s average monthly active users (MAUs) reached 800,000 between April and July 2018, compared to Zhihu’s 32 million. By July, Wukong’s MAU suddenly dropped to 170,000.
Zhihu, backed by Tencent, Kuaishou, and Baidu, has been preparing for a Hong Kong or US IPO, KrASIA wrote in December.
Despite being known as an “app factory,” only a few ByteDance products are able to stand out. Just last week, the firm announced to shut down “Haohao Xuexi” (Study Well), a paid content app. Many high-flying projects, such as the joke app Neihan Duanzi, social app Duoshan, messenger Feiliao, and English learning tool Kaiyan, all flopped or failed to gain steam.