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向年轻人贩卖神秘感:这款占星应用每年收费200美元

Colin Bertram, 彭博社 2019年03月28日

创始人宣称,Sanctuary应用的上线,也是“近几年健康领域的一件大事”。

Sanctuary Ventures Inc.是一家专门为年轻人提供占星术等神秘服务的数字媒体公司。如果你对星座不了解,它的APP给你进行一番很好的科普。今年3月20日是占星术中的新年,在这一天,Sanctuary公司推出了这款最新的占星APP。它可以提供每日星座运势,还可以由专业占星师在线提供按需占星服务,甚至计划进军电子商务市场(比如卖塔罗牌、水晶、熏香之类的周边产品)。

对于一定年龄段的读者,如果有人问“你是什么星座的?”,不免令人想起早些年那些在夜店里尬舞的社会闲散青年——都2019年了,谁还靠扯星座来撩妹呢?然而风水轮流转,时下的Z世代年轻人又开始相信伪科学了。星座这一历史的尘埃又焕发了生机,成为聊天时的热门话题。根据Ibis World公司2018年的一项市场调查,在美国,神秘主义和心灵服务等伪科学市场的市值已经超过了20亿美元。

在此之前,该公司在Facebook的Messenger应用上发布的占星机器人已经取得了一定的成功。现在该公司已经不再满足于提供免费的每日占星服务。用户可以按月(月费19.99美元)或按年(年费199.99美元)缴纳会费,享受专属的真人专家解读服务。为此,该公司还专门聘请了一支专业占星师团队开展工作,为首的是该公司的常驻占星师阿莉扎·凯莉。另外,订阅用户还可以每周以在线聊天的形式获得星座运势的解读,每次需额外缴纳19.99美元。

Sanctuary公司的联合创始人及首席执行官罗斯·克拉克表示:“占星术真的是一项已经存在了几百年的古老术法。”他表示,以前大家主要通过报纸、杂志、打电话或者当面询问的方式了解自己的星座运势,Sanctuary公司希望将它改造成一种基于文字的、一对一的实时聊天模式,将更短、更易于消化的运势解读(一般为15至20分钟)呈现给用户。

克拉克表示:“文字信息是‘千禧一代’和年轻人的语言,我们也非常想利用这一点。文字信息不仅是他们最熟悉的语言,同时这种媒介也使我们能够随时随地提供服务。这种基于文字信息的机制还提供了一种缓冲功能。如果你刚刚接触到星座,或者你不想通过电话或面对面询问自己的星座运势,这种基于文字的对话也可以使你放下顾虑。”

克拉克称,Sanctuary应用的上线,也是“近几年健康领域的一件大事”。近几年火起来的不仅有占星术,还有塔罗牌、灵气疗法,以及“冥想应用的兴起所带来的所有东西”。

根据全球健康研究所(Global Wellness Institute)的数据,近年来,自我治疗与保健行业发展迅速,已经成长为一个4.2万亿美元的庞大市场。Goop等品牌、正念等心理疗法以及Headspace、Calm等冥想应用都经历了巨大的增长。根据来自于Sensor Tower的数据,Calm是2018年全球最赚钱的健康与健身类应用,预计总收入超过6360万美元,较上一年增长277%。其下载量由2017年的815万次增加到2018年的1795万次,增长了120%。

很多美国年轻人选择远离有组织的宗教。据皮尤研究中心2015年的一项民调显示,美国35%的“千禧一代”人不具有任何宗教信仰。不过克拉克认为,美国年轻人仍然渴望某种“能帮助他们了解自身,并且能过滤和化解掉世上所有喧嚣”的体系。他表示,占星术恰恰提供了这种功能,同时它还多了一个有趣的层面,因为它是自我认知为主的,而且它还能通过Instagram等社交媒体平台进行表达。

爱丽丝·贝尔便是因为自我认知而入了占星术这个坑。今年26岁的贝尔曾经在《Vogue》杂志做时尚助理。大约一年前,她开始痴迷地解读星盘,并且相信占星术能解释一直以来让她困扰的情绪和性格问题。

她表示:“我总是拿自己和别人做比较,总是想知道为什么我不能做得跟别人一样。而占星术告诉了我,我之所以这样做是有原因的,从而使我平静了下来。其他人也发现了占星术的魅力,它也同样能帮助他们理解他们的情绪。”

贝尔居住在纽约。从去年3月起,她开始在Instagram上发表关于占星术的帖子。由于反响很好,她便开始通过站内短信解读别人的星盘。到去年夏末,她已经开始收费服务了。去年11月,她开办了一家名叫Stalk的生活方式和占星术网站。由于市场对她的服务需求很大,今年年初,她干脆辞去了在《Vogue》杂志的工作,一门心思投身于自己的占星业务。目前她解读一次星盘的费用在40到65美元之间。此外她还经营星座马克杯、手机壳、手提袋等周边产品。

“在我宣布辞职后,我的订单堆积得越来越多了。”她说。由于各种活动、约稿和面谈请求越来越多,想请贝尔占星的客户甚至得排三四个星期的队。“一下子好像全宇宙都注意到了我,突然之间我收到了很多关于占星术的工作邀请。”

Sanctuary跟其他创业公司一样也离不开风投的支持。目前它已经拿到Advancit Capital、Broadway Video Ventures、Greycroft Partners、KEC Ventures和Blue seed Collective等公司的150万美元种子投资。在占星领域里比较知名的APP还有TimePassages和据说嵌入了人工智能技术的Co-Star。此外市场上各种各样的神秘学用具也有很多,比如Urban Outfitters公司推出的售价15美元的水晶和熏香套装,Goop公司推出的售价27美元的吸血鬼退散剂等等。

克拉克表示,对于这款APP来说,最核心的生钱产品仍然是付费解读,电商功能有待下一步推出。目前,该应用的占星师们每天从早9点到晚9点(美国东部时间)在线提供服务,计划到今年晚些时候扩展到24小时全天服务。(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

In case you’re not attuned to the stars, Sanctuary Ventures Inc., the digital media company focusing on mystical services for a millennial audience, wants to change that. Wednesday, March 20 is the start of the astrological new year and the launch of Sanctuary’s new astrological reading app. It offers daily horoscopes, first-in-kind live and on-demand readings with professional astrologers, and plans to expand into the e-commerce marketplace (think tarot cards, crystals, sage bundles, and incense).

For readers of a certain age, the question “What’s your sign?” evokes images of open-shirted, disco-dancing Lotharios. But as everything in life is cyclical (sorry, eggs), many millennials and members of Generation Z are gravitating toward the pseudoscience, making the question of what’s your sun sign (Aries, Libra, etc.) once again a generic point of conversation, as well as fueling the burgeoning mystical and psychic services market valued at more $2 billion, according to 2018 market research from Ibis World.

The Sanctuary app builds on the success the company has had with its Facebook Messenger astrology bot, but now expands its offerings beyond free daily horoscopes by allowing users to upgrade to a monthly ($19.99) or yearly ($199.99) subscription membership level granting access to live, chat-based readings from a team of professional astrologers led by Astrologer-in-Residence Aliza Kelly. Subscribers are able to access one astrology live-chat reading per week with the option of additional readings at $19.99 each. (At press time, a weekly $3.99 option was still listed in the App Store, although company reps say that is being removed.)

“Astrology is really ancient practice that has existed for centuries,” says Sanctuary co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Ross Clark, who adds the traditional entry point into the space was daily newspapers and magazines, or in-person or phone-based readings. Sanctuary aims to upend the access model via reimagining the experience as a text-based, one-on-one live chat format in shorter, more digestible bites (15- to 20-minute readings).

“Texting is the language of millennials and younger people today, so we really wanted to harness that,” says Clark. “It’s not only the language they are most familiar with but that medium also enables us to provide this anytime, anywhere experience. The text-based mechanism also provides a filter if you are someone who is just dipping your toe in the water or you’re someone who maybe is reluctant to go and do these sorts of things in person or on the phone, so there is a layer that gives people reassurance.”

Clark sees the Sanctuary app launch as “part of the broader wellness story that has been happening for the last few years,” which includes tarot, Reiki energy healing, and “everything we have seen with the rise of the meditation app.”

The self-care and wellness industry is a booming $4.2 trillion market, according to the Global Wellness Institute, with brands such as Goop and mindfulness and meditation apps such as Headspace and Calm experiencing huge growth. Calm was the top-earning app worldwide in the Health & Fitness category during 2018, with an estimated gross revenue of more than $63.6 million, a 277 percent increase from a year earlier, according to Sensor Tower data. Calm’s downloads increased by 120 percent, from 8.15 million in 2017 to 17.95 million in 2018.

With younger Americans turning away from organized religion (a 2015 Pew Research Poll reported 35 percent of millennials eschew any religious affiliation), Clark believes they are hungry for a system that “helps them understand both themselves and a way of filtering and working through all the chaos in the world.” Astrology provides that, he says, as well as adding a playful layer that’s identity-driven and predominantly expressed via platforms such as Instagram.

Self-identification is what initially drew Alice Bell to astrology. A former fashion assistant at Vogue, the 26-year-old Bell began reading charts “obsessively a little over a year ago” and believes the practice helps explain emotions and personality traits she had struggled with.

“I was always comparing myself to others and wondering why I couldn’t act the same, so it helped calm me by telling me there is a reason why I was acting the way I did,” she says. “Other people find that appealing, too, it helps them understand their emotions.”

New York-based Bell began posting about astrology on Instagram in March of last year, and the response was so great she began reading people’s charts via direct messaging. By summer’s end she was charging for readings before launching Stalk, her lifestyle and astrology website, in late November. Demand for her services had increased so much that by early 2019 she quit her job at Vogue and now focuses solely on her astrological business, which offers astrology chart readings ($40 to $65) and merchandise ranging from sign-specific coffee mugs to phone cases and tote bags.

“After I announced I was quitting, the orders started piling up,” says Bell, whose readings now have a wait time of three to four weeks as she juggles in-person event appearances, requests for written astrological content, and face-to-face readings with clients. “It’s like the universe saw me give my notice and immediately I started getting astrology job offers.”

Sanctuary had a less mystical entrée into the marketplace thanks to $1.5 million in seed funding led by Advancit Capital, Broadway Video Ventures, Greycroft Partners, KEC Ventures, and Blue Seed Collective. Other apps in the astrology space include TimePassages and the AI-powered Co-Star, while the marketplace in general now accommodates items as diverse as a $15 crystal and incense kit from Urban Outfitters and $27 Psychic Vampire Repellent at Goop.

Clark says the paid readings are the central monetizable product on the app with e-commerce merchandise to follow. At launch, Sanctuary astrologers are available every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET, with plans to expand to 24-hour-a-day coverage later in the year.

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