Short for “weblog,” blog is a periodically updated journal that offers online commentary with minimal or no external editing by any authority figure. Usually, bloggers are not compensated for their writing and do not need to obtain permission from authority or organizations before they publish their articles on the blogging platform. Here, I adopt a broader or less restricted definition of blog. Specifically, a blog refers to a form of online publishing where articles are written by an individual and sometimes a group of individuals regardless of whether they are commissioned to do or whether their articles need to be approved and edited before publishing.
Individuals often blog about their experiences, thoughts, and comments on a situation, social issues, and various topics. More often than not, these blog posts reflect the authors’ attitudes, political stance, person interests, education levels and the like. However, individuals come and go, platforms stay. Unlike microblogs/weibo and WeChat where people follow specific individuals out of their personal charisma, similar interests, or novel opinions, Internet users visit different blogging sites mainly based on topics and fields those sites specialize in. Therefore, rather than investigating individual bloggers, this is more about analyzing and presenting different blogging sites in China.
Below are five blogging sites that are either widely-used by the general public or influential in specific fields in China. While there is no quantitative indicators to measure the impact of these blogging sites, these observations and qualitative analysis offers an overview of the big picture of Chinese blog-sphere.
Sina Blog 新浪博客 http://blog.sina.com.cn/
Sina Blog was launched in 2005. Its owner, Sina Corporation, also owns the largest microblogging platform (Sina Weibo) in China. Its marketing strategies such as inviting celebrities, businessmen, scholars, and other influential individuals in different fields to set up blogs has helped Sina Blog become arguably the most popular blogging site in China. It does not have a specific area; basically everyone can find their interested topics—be it current affairs, finance, entertainment, sports, relationship, stock market, education, military, design, childcare, travel—in it. While many of the popular bloggers are well-known individuals in their field, there is a large number of famous grass-root bloggers as well. The targeted audience of Sina blog is the general public regardless of their education level, income, interests, gender or other factors. Although the language style and quality depends on bloggers themselves, most Sina Blog users tend to write in an informal and casual way. For many, Sina Blog is an information- and opinion-gathering source. On its homepage, Sina Blog prioritizes and promotes blog posts that are tightly related to current affairs, on-going heated debates, and up-to-date events in all fields. Posts that offers analysis and prediction of stock market are also highly visible on the homepage.
Founded in November, 1998, Tencent, Inc. has grown into China’s largest and most used Internet service portal. In its ten-year history, Tencent has developed a number of widely-used online platforms such QQ Instant Messenger, QQ.com, WeChat and so on. Because of its substantive user base from QQ Instant Messenger (798.2 million as of Dec 31, 2012), its other product, services, and content are likely to be delivered to a large group of audience. Tencent launched Tencent Dajia, its blogging site, in 2012 and since then, the site has become a popular platform for journalists, columnists, scholars, media practitioners and general readers who are interested in humanities subjects. Specifically, it covers topics like social issues, political economy, current affairs (mostly domestic), history, culture and literature. Unlike Sing Blog which welcomes both elite and grass-root writers, Tencent Dajia is an elite/quality-oriented platform where it only publishes articles written by acknowledged individuals such as QIN Hui, XU Jilin, HUANG Zhangjun, LIAN Yue, ZHANG Xiaozhou, YUAN Weishi. It is not a traditional blogging platform per se since every article the blogger writes needs to be approved and/or edited by editors in Tencent. In addition, bloggers/writers get paid for their articles.
Baidu, Tencent’s biggest rival, launched a similar platform called Baidu Baijia a year later in December, 2013. The site is managed by Baidu Corporation’s News Department and it operates in a similar pattern with that of Tencent Dajia. While Tencent Dajia focuses on humanities subjects, articles published on Baidu Baijia are mostly Internet- and technology-related; many of the writers Baidu Baijia invited are owners of Internet startups and IT savvy — so is their audience.
Consensus Website/GongShiWang 共识网 http://www.21ccom.net/
Launched in July, 2009, Consensus Website is owned by the Beijing-based Li De Consensus Media Group (立德共识网络传媒科技有限公司), an “ independent, non-governmental and open platform for various schools of thought inside and outside China”. Apart from the website, the Group has created magazines such as Financial Digest and Leaders. Consensus Website covers areas of international affairs, governance, diplomacy, security, history, ideology and culture. The bloggers/writers for Consensus Website are usually well-recognized practitioners and/or researchers in their fields. Scholars such as ZHANG Ming, SUN Liping, media practitioners such as DENG Jinwen, SHI Feike, XIE Yong, are all frequent contributors to Consensus Website’s blog.
It does not have as large an audience as Sina Blog has, but its readers are arguably better-educated, more influential, better-informed and have a bigger say in various fields. A majority of its readers are scholars, government officials, entrepreneurs and college students. Maybe because of this particular readership, the content in Consensus Website is somehow bolder, less censored, more “sensitive” compared with that in other online platforms. While the discussion on Cultural Revolution was consciously suppressed in Sina, Phoenix/IFeng, NetEast and other commercial news portals, articles on Cultural Revolution were still there (or can stay longer at least) on this platform.
Unlike the previous introduced blogging sites, Consensus Website has four different sources/types of articles. A part of it is by reposting articles from other platforms, such as traditional media and WeChat official accounts; another part comes from direct submission by authors which needs to be reviewed before publishing; some is self-generated content from interviews conducted by the Consensus Website’s editors; the last part falls into the traditional definition of blog posts where bloggers can post articles by themselves. The publishing standards and process in Consensus Website are similar with those in Tencent Dajia: 1) It only publishes acknowledged authors’ articles and 2) authors have to submit articles and let them go through review and editorial process by editors at Consensus Website. However, the website does not pay its authors for published articles unless they also appear on its Leaders magazine.
Beida Law Info/Law Online 北大法学信息网/法学在线 http://article.chinalawinfo.com/
Beida Law Info Website is co-founded by Chinalawinfo Co.,Ltd. and Peking University Center for Legal Information. It is an article publishing and sharing platform that specifically covers the law field. BeiDa Law Info Website, as is suggested by its name, is not only topic-specific but also more academic and professional than the above-mentioned websites. As such, it requires readers to have a basic, if not professional, law knowledge to fully understand the content on this platform. Bloggers/authors on Beida Law Info blog are law practitioners from universities/research institutes, legislative institutions, judiciary systems, disciplinary and supervisory departments, law firms, law media, legal operations, and other law-related professions. Law professors such as HE Weifang, YAO Geping, QIANG Shigong, officials such as YANG Tao, TENG Xiufu, FAN Weiguo all have their own blog on this website.
CaiXin Blog 财新博客 http://blog.caixin.com/
Caixin Blog is affiliated with caixin.com, a website with original financial and business content. The website is established by Caixin Media Company Limited, which is a media group created by HU Shuli to provide financial and business news and information through periodicals, online content, mobile apps, conferences, books and TV/video programs. Unlike BeiDa Law Info which focuses solely on law-related information, Caixin Blog covers finance, business, culture, society, lifestyle, and technology.
As showed in the screenshot, one can fine bloggers/authors by their specifications and all of them are relatively high-profile in their own field such as economy scholar ZHOU Qiren 周其仁, investor JIAN Zhi 简直, journalist Lvqiu Luwei 闾丘露薇, media watcher XU Danei 徐达内, law scholar HE Fan 何帆, and lifestyle commentator WU Dong 吴东 (widely known as “Hua Zong 花总”). Just as it touches upon a wide range of topics, Caixin Blog has a wide range of readers who come from various fields. Compared with Sina Blog, its readers arguably have a higher education level.
Some other popular blogging platforms:
TMTPost 钛媒体 http://www.tmtpost.com/authors/recommended
TMTpost is a newly established but trendy business technology information service provider. Positioned for innovation, startup groups, it serves as a communication platform that provides the most efficient, professional, and valuable information，and related occupation and capital services. It gathers the industry’s highest quality contents, famous authors (opinion leaders) and service products.
Hu Xiu 虎嗅网 http://www.huxiu.com/
Hu Xiu website is also a technology-focused platform. It covers up-to-date business information mostly in the IT indutry. It allows users – whether they are famous or not- to contribute to its content.
Zhihu 知乎 zhihu.com (China’s Quora) (quasi-blogging platform)
Founded in 2011, Zhihu is a Chinese question-and-answer website where questions are created, answered, edited and organized by the community of its users. It has a similar product model as Quora. Zhihu is a highly interactive with best responses upvoted by others. It features high-profile Chinese entrepreneurs and public intellectuals among its users.
(The article also appears in Tech In Asia, click here to view.)