What is the founder Zhou Yuan thinking about the secondary listing of Zhihu?

Today, Zhihu was listed in Hong Kong for the second time, and I saw the user’s open letter sent by Zhou Yuan. He said: “In the past year, I have communicated with hundreds of investors in the secondary market about thinking about crossing the cycle. Everyone is also very concerned about how Zhihu can grow healthily for 30 years, how to expand its scale and support itself.”

His answer to this question is based on three core thoughts: ecology first, social value, and rational optimism.


Figure | Zhihu Hong Kong Secondary Listing

I used to be one of Zhou Yuan’s editors when he was a reporter for IT Manager World magazine many years ago. When I first saw this letter, the “old editor” temporarily possessed him: Well, I feel that the writing is not good enough.

Although later I thought, maybe because of today’s environment. Most people in this letter will see peace and sincerity, but the questions and logic that Zhihu is thinking about are too subtle, and people may not be able to understand it.

During the entrepreneurial process of Zhihu, I was fortunate to maintain a relatively continuous communication with Zhou Yuan. There is no doubt that what he is doing now, and the questions he wants to think about, must be far more complicated than writing an article. This letter really triggered some memories of my past exchanges with him. I thought maybe I could add some information to help you better understand what Zhihu is thinking about.

01What is the relationship between community managers and communities?

“In the past ten years, Zhihu has grown from small to large, and the changes are not only in the number and scale. In the conversations with our friends, in the interaction of approval and attention, we have formed a tower of mutual transmission, mutual inspiration and mutual understanding. Affecting the community ecology.” In Zhou Yuan’s user letter, the ecology first, in fact, said that Zhihu wants to be a healthy and prosperous community, which is the first and most important.

Although today’s Zhihu looks like a typical social media platform on the user side, the most important logic of Zhihu is indeed a community driven by a question-and-answer mechanism.


Figure | In 2014, Zhihu founder Zhou Yuan at the Geek Park Innovation Conference

The word community is simple to say, but it may be the most complicated and difficult form of Internet products. Because the real composition of the community is people, not just code, nor just the logic of physics, mathematics, and business. Because people are non-standardized, even without natural consensus.

The harder it is, the harder it is to “get”. At that time, ByteDance used “Wukong Questions and Answers” to occupy the field of Zhihu, but in the end, it was withdrawn. It was also because although it used the logic of physics, mathematics and business to make breakthroughs in the data, it was very good, but after the breakthrough, it was found that the logic of the people inside was too much. It’s complicated and can’t be done (it can also be said that it is not interested in doing it with a lot of cost and time).

The community is destined to be a “long journey”, especially a community that is constantly breaking the circle and getting bigger. I remember that around 2017, Zhou Yuan’s thinking for a while was, when Zhihu introduced more and more users, what would the structure of this community look like?

At that time, he realized that more and more users were joining, and everyone’s interests, world views, and expectations for Zhihu might not necessarily be the same. How to support this “community galaxy” composed of different interests and topics on a community infrastructure, and finally effectively connect to form a “community universe” is indeed a very complicated topic.

What’s interesting is that I recently communicated with Zhou Yuan and found that he was still thinking about the community, but the perspective of thinking extended from how to give the community an effective “topological structure” to “what is the identity of Zhihu in this community?” .

Today, in this community called Zhihu, is Zhihu the creator? owner? Or a member of the community?

In terms of pure business and technical logic, it is very simple, Zhihu is the company of Zhihu. But from a sociological perspective, Zhihu is really just an early “developer” in this community, and a “property” now. Community members will evaluate you and even vote with their feet to abandon you.

I am afraid that Zhou Yuan has also had some new thoughts on the so-called aboriginal impact after working on Zhihu for many years. After all, when a product with a certain user level is reached, its population is not easy to classify. Classification means extreme simplification of features and characteristics. This will obliterate the differences of individuals and small groups.

Therefore, in Zhou Yuan’s user letter, the bottom layer of “ecology first” is to make the community prosperous, and let the growing users feel that it is meaningful in the community. Zhihu must do a good job of “property”, not the creator. Role.

In fact, in the process of Zhihu’s continuous growth, it has encountered waves of “indigenous shocks”, and every once in a while, there will always be users who will say sadly that “Zhihu has changed”.

As one of the top 100 users of Zhihu, I used to be one of them, and I always miss the early days when Zhihu had only 10,000 users. In the past, I couldn’t help but want to give Zhou Yuan a suggestion. Can this place be changed? Is that place unreasonable?

During my long-term observation, I realized that the growth of the community comes from giving all users a bigger space. Sometimes this requires doing some inaction. “You have to decide what not to do, not what to do, in order to help the community grow.” This point of view that Zhou Yuan told me recently still caused me to think a lot. Especially in an environment full of “rational egos”.

02 Why can’t Zhihu be a “minority”?

I once thought about a question, if Zhihu chooses to be a “consensus community of some people”, can it be more pure and beautiful, and also the product that “me” likes the most? Is it all because of “evil business” and changed the taste?

I have asked Zhou Yuan many times, what is the goal you most want to achieve on Zhihu? In fact, he also mentioned the word “inclusive” many times.


Figure | In 2019, Zhou Yuan participated in the Geek Park Conference to share his thoughts

“Zhihu is a community where there are rich and colorful knowledge, live experience, unique insights, and generous and friendly people behind them. So for us, the social value of Zhihu is to help more people get rid of The fear and anxiety, arrogance and prejudice brought about by the unknown.” Zhou Yuan’s user letter, when it comes to the phrase “social value”, is more specific than the word “inclusive”.

Obviously, if the Zhihu team wants the meaning of inclusiveness, it must grow into something that more people find meaningful. The objective data of user additions and activity in the financial report does indeed reflect this growth. This supports the business logic of Zhihu, as a company, to create greater value, and also supports the spiritual goal that the Zhihu team wants in the heart.

If the Zhihu company is also a member of the Zhihu community, then as a Zhihu user, of course I should equally understand what this member’s thoughts and pursuits are? In fact, for users who love Zhihu, I think this part can be said more clearly, and a two-way understanding is necessary.

Zhou Yuan is actually a person with a distinct personality. Back then, because he bought a copy of the magazine “IT Manager World” at a newsstand, he was deeply inspired by the revolutionary changes to the world that digitization described in the magazine. Luggage came to Beijing to apply for a job as a reporter for this magazine. I was a witness to this.

Temperament is not easy for a person to change. But over the years, Zhou Yuan has changed in that his understanding of things has become more peaceful. For example, I remember talking about the issue of “indigenous shocks” once. Zhou Yuan’s point of view was probably “People will meet Zhihu at different times in their lives, some people will leave, and some people will come back. I think we have to let nature take its course. “

Indeed, the Zhihu community belongs to everyone, not a certain person or group of people. When it comes to “social value”, I always feel that this is also saying that the Zhihu team is facing controversy and doing things every day, not to seek quick success, but also to know where their goals are.

03 Why can’t I know how to lie down?

Speaking of gossip, many media reports have logically and rigorously reasoned that, with the launch of the World Cup advertisement in 2018 as a node, Zhihu began to prepare for the listing and went through a difficult process.


Figure | Zhihu is listed on the New York Stock Exchange

However, in fact, Zhihu’s listing is really only planned in 2020. The 2018 World Cup ad placement is actually a “black history” of Zhihu. It’s strange that no one has dug into it.

In 2018, Zhou Yuan just raised 100 million US dollars. Zhihu, who has never spent advertising fees, wants to test the “advertising-user conversion” method that has been popular on the Internet for a long time. As a result, money was spent in 2018, but the user growth at the end of the year is very poor as I recall. why? Because the relevant systems for launch, user conversion, and retention are not ready, in fact, it is considered to have paid tuition fees, and it took more than a year to finally make up for this blind spot.

Zhihu has experienced a lot of embarrassment like this in the past. For example, in the early days of Zhihu’s membership system + audio content paid product, I made 90 audio content on Zhihu, and Zhihu’s recommendations in the first screen information stream were not less recommended, but the conversion rate was so low that I was once Doubt life.

After reviewing with Zhou Yuan, he said that the recommendation and distribution algorithm was not in place at that time – of course I think this may be comforting me.

In fact, the real reason is that it is right for Zhihu’s members to choose the form of “knowledge payment” for audio content? It took a long time for Zhihu to figure out the right angle – “audio novel” is the first successful category of Zhihu’s audio, and this finally started the steady growth of Zhihu’s membership income, and now it is Zhihu’s first successful category of audio. It is one of the most powerful business support points for Zhihu, and it is the membership business and the later “Zhi +”, which makes Zhihu in 2020 really remember that after the listing, it will be completed with less difficulty.

It seems that the “black history” is not over yet. Today, Zhihu’s video products are estimated to be in the groping stage. How to do it right depends on the next thinking and iteration of Zhihu’s products.

So why does Zhihu continue to toss? After all, it is easy to leave a black history if you have to toss? Can’t you just mess around?

Users always want your most beautiful appearance, which is inevitable. But Zhihu can’t feel “almost got it”. More people really need new content forms to serve, and Zhihu’s goal really needs to serve these people, so even if you face the stage of “not doing well”, you have to do it, even if you will leave a black history, it will be worthwhile. To finally pass through this darkness. This may be the “rational optimism” mentioned in Zhou Yuan’s user letter.

Be honest about what you want, and be honest with yourself about the process of doing things right. As long as you don’t regard yourself as a god, and really put yourself down a little bit, you will be scolded when you should, and you have to move forward if you should.

Zhou Yuan said in the user letter: “In the past two years or more, it may have seemed a little ‘meaningful’ to everyone in the world. The fear, narrow-mindedness, arrogance and prejudice brought by the unknown, with the outbreak of the ‘black swan’ It will spread and grow. But Zhihu will challenge the opponents of this era, that is, the original intention of “gathering the knowledge, experience and insights in everyone’s head and making them available to everyone” remains unchanged, asking questions, answering, to act.”

Content-related fields have never been a “winner-takes-all” market because of differences in the form, birth, and consumption scenarios of content. The speed over a period of time is not even important, what is really important is the continuous “question, answer and action” that does not give up.

From the passionate youth in their 20s that I met back then to the founder of the company who is over 40 today, Zhou Yuan’s frankness has at least not changed. He said in the user letter: The original goal set by Zhihu, today, is far from enough, the North Star is ahead, and the road is still long.

I think there must be strength in all the undiminished enthusiasm and stubbornness over a longer period of time and with clearer goals.

(The user letter is not attached, if you are interested, you can search and read it)

This article is reprinted from: https://www.geekpark.net/news/301289
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