China’s largest search engine Baidu has bought a 37.4% stake in Qimao Novels (Qimao means “seven cats”), according to changes in a corporate information document from the company that runs that app.
Qimao offers readers free access to any novel on its platform and derives revenue from advertisers, a traditional model for the online literature market in China that was popular before the paid readership model kicked in.
This free readership model, combined with a reading incentive scheme that enables readers to gain cash by just reading, has helped the app, which went online in June 2018, gain users.
Qimao, with 6,659 novels in total, is the most downloaded app in the online reading sector in recent months, according to Duojiaoyutou, a Chinese WeChat account that focuses on investments in the entertainment sector.
In April, Qimao was ranked the first among all apps in terms of downloads in the Chinese version of Apple’s App Store, beating ByteDance’s two apps—the short video app Douyin, whose equivalent is known as TikTok outside the Chinese mainland and Toutiao, a news feed app, added Duojiaoyutou.
Baidu has yet to respond to KrAsia‘s request for a comment.