Richard Edelman has an extremely informative post on his blog regarding the state of the Blogsphere in China which deserves the widest possible circulation - as does one of the comments on it. They reflect the real situation in China - the relevant post is for 13 June. http://www.edelman.com/speak_up/blog/
Richard Edelman's post is as follows:
State of the Chinese Blogosphere
I am at Edelman’s annual leadership meeting in Shanghai. We just heard from a group of Chinese bloggers, including Raymond Zhou, Isaac Mao, Steven Lin, Tangos Chan, Sam Flemming and Adam Schokora - disclosure; Mr Schokora works for Edelman China. Here are some of the most salient points:
1) Social media in China has two constant themes: the rich/poor divide and nationalism. According to Mr. Zhou, there is tremendous risk in ignoring blogs with “anti-China feeling,” such as those prompted by Sharon Stone’s recent comment about the earthquake in Sichuan Province caused somehow by Chinese behavior in Tibet. “Christian Dior did exactly the right thing in distancing the company from her and even making up an apology for her.” He noted that Carrefour didn’t respond to false claims that they supported the Dalai Lama, which spread like wildfire across Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) until they reported by mainstream media. “By playing the victim, being passive in the face of attacks, the company allowed the venom to go away.”
2) The large mainstream media, including China Daily, People’s Daily and CCTV is “a one direction world,” said Mr. Mao. “But we are now in a many to many world. Even though my parents get most of their information from TV, I send them text messages via the cell phone, so the world has become less hierarchical.” There was a text message alleging that one of the owners of Carrefour was financing the Dalai Lama. Then each person has to forward the text message to ten people, otherwise, you are not patriot.
3) Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) is the dominant form of social media in China, noted Mr. Flemming. For example, 200,000 women posted 1 million messages last month on cosmetics and 300,000 people put up 5.5 million messages on autos, he stated. There are vertical BBS options such as Xcar. Mr Tangus said that smart companies are now making it easy to grab video content on their web sites that can easily be sent via BBS. Mr. Zhou added that BBS is becoming highly segmented; “there are now micro-hobbies within each hobby.”
4) Commercialism has made blogs quite sensational. Mr. Zhou suggested that “in a world where performance is based on the number of page views, bloggers tend not to be the best journalists.” He provided a hypothetical example of a BMW running onto the curb and hitting a pedestrian as a perfect blog post that would be put onto the front page of Sina.com because it plays to the stereotypes of the rich person. Mr. Mao said that mainstream media often gets story ideas from bloggers; he suggested that Beijing residents will likely complain on-line during the upcoming Olympic Games about the traffic or impolite tourists. “Social media will portray this as the non-harmonious Games.”
5) BBS and blogs are amplifiers of stories in mainstream media. “The angry youth of China made their voices heard on-line after the torch relay incident in Paris,” said Mr. Mao, then the mainstream media reflected that feeling. After the recent earthquake, most of the bloggers had to rely on the Government for information, particularly CCTV, said Mr. Chen. “Then in the relief stage, there was lots of BBS discussion, giving us a more comprehensive picture of what was happening.” The blogs and BBS helped to raise money for victims while also “serving as a place for public grieving, to post prayers for the dead.” For a special report on how the Chinese blogosphere covered the earthquake, go to CICdata.com.
6) The best Chinese bloggers are from mainstream media, said Mr. Zhou. “They use social media because they are not as closely regulated as in their regular jobs.” He cited the reporter from Xinhua who blogged continually from Sichuan Province during the visit of Premier Wen Jiabao to catalyze the relief effort. Mr. Lin believes that “bloggers consider themselves reporters now; they dig out stories.”
7) Companies are getting serious about digital spend in China. Mr. Flemming said that brands can achieve awareness through TV advertising but “to tap into consumer passions, you need to go on line.”
8) The Chinese and English blogospheres are quite closely connected, said Mr. Mao. Some of the prominent Chinese bloggers such as Tangos Chan blog in English.
9) As in the US, there is huge attention paid to celebrities in the on-line world, according to Mr. Schokora. “But most blogs are about people’s lives,” he said.
These bloggers were incredibly impressive, committed to change, convinced that they were part of a new China where individual expression and frank speaking will win. They love the idea that in Mr. Zhou’s words,”We have moved beyond the propaganda posters as the voice of the people. Now we have a platform for ordinary citizens to give their views.” They also relish the high level of involvement in social media; according to Mr. Flemming, “98% of Chinese with access to the Internet have contributed to blogs or BBS.” I would appreciate your views as always.
The comment with information which should be widely absorbed to understand the scale of internet use in China is by Adam Schokora.
Thanks for the post Richard. Great info.
Allow me share a few numbers to help put a bit of context around the Chinese digital / social media landscape.
- 235 million Internet users; the largest Internet user population in the world
- Nationwide penetration of Internet usage is still quite low, at about 15%; a sign of tremendous growth yet to come
- 75% of these 235 million users are urban residents and educated
- 80% of these 235 million users are between the ages of 15 – 35 years old
- 60+ million active blogs- 80+ million active participants on BSS forums (bulletin board system, i.e. online discussion forums)
- Of these 80+ million BBS users, 36.3% spend 1 - 3 hours a day reading/contributing to different forums; 44.7% spend 3 - 8 hours, and 15.1% spend 8+ hours; 60% will login to at least 3 BBS forums more than 3 times a week
- 3 billion registered BBS users (a single netizen can register to different forums multiple times)
- Chinese BBS forums experience 1.6 billion page views and 10 million new posts daily(!)
- 600+ million mobile phone subscribers (in Q1 of 2008, Chinese mobile phones users sent nearly 175 billion text messages)
- China is consistently adding 5 - 10 million new mobile phone subscribers a month[The above figures are extracted from the January 2008 results of the China Internet Network Information Center's (CNNIC: www.cnnic.net.cn/en/index) biannual survey of the Internet in China. Some figures have been adjusted upward to account for inevitable increases over the last 6 months. CNNIC's mid 2008 survey results will be published in the very near future. Watch CNNIC for the latest figures.]
Posted by: Adam Schokora at June 22, 2008 8:23 AM