Weibo which can be also called Sina Weibo is an amazing innovation that been produced in the 21st century. It is an online platform with multiple functions that allow people to read the news, communicate and entertain. Similar to Twitter in the Western country, Weibo has become one of the most popular application in China currently.
In the following part, I will give an overview of Weibo and illustrate the historical development, then examine the ownership and the business model. An infographic provided for demonstrating the economic structure of this internet service. Lastly, a discussion on the transformative effects of Weibo will be explored.
What is Weibo?
Weibo can be also called as Microblog, which is a brunch of the blog that has the word limit. Similar to Twitter, it is a novel social networking platform in China for sharing real-time information online. Social media like this is a key component of virtual life that providing a new form for ‘virtual communities’ (Jordan, 2015). Weibo itself is a platform based on information sharing, transforming and obtaining. Users could build their own personal community, they tweet within 140 words and follow others to receive their tweets. It is casual for everyone to update feeling and mood. Individuals can register their own accounts and post in your own account. We can also retweet the posts of others with our personal perspectives, and it is also available to send the private letter with others as most social media does. In Weibo, you can follow others for receiving the notification of their latest news. Two-way following for becoming friends and you will see their posts in the ‘friend circle’. You can also add tags in your posts for finding other users who have the same interest as you, then you can form groups with them and get in touch with each other.
The power of Weibo is a new medium of information sharing (Kwak et.al., 2010) There are connections between users, and users can get the first-hand information of the celebrities. It is one of the most famous online social platforms in China currently.
The earliest and the most famous ancestor which is Twitterin America. Evan Williams who is the founder of the blog, his company called Obvious has launched the service of Twitter in 2006. In the following year in May, with the emergence of the local service provider in China, the first Weibo production came out called fanfouwhich is the signal of the Weibo entered China. This is the initial period that including several small sites and all the creators were lacking skills. The skills that mirrored the production in America were immature. Therefore, Weibo at that period has fewer users and lower attention degree relatively.
With the rapid development and popularization of the internet in the later 2 years, a large number of similar new blog sites occurred online such asBaiduTieba, SouhuWeibo. The Weibo in Chinese market showed an obvious competitive trend in 2009. The Sina Weibo which opened beta in August is exactly the term of Weibo we use today.
The number of users has a tremendous growth in 2010 and the users reach has achieved 1,252,170,000, and the penetration of users has reached up to 36.9%. Since 2011, Weibo was maintaining a momentum of rapid growth continuously.
With the rapid devolvement in the process, it begins to impact various areas in the society. It was changing the ways of individuals for obtaining information, social interaction and lifestyles gradually. It could even influence the public opinions easily in numbers of public events.
Furthermore, teaming with the portal website, Weibo playing the role of an internet product, it shows the drive to maturity in the rapid development (Xie & Xu, 2011). The number of active users reached 4 hundred million currently and the market value exceeded the original Twitter (Hei, 2018).
As we can see from the statistic in the figures above that Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is the top 1 holder of the institutional holding with 9,000.000 shares held. There are more than three hundred holders, and the principle holders are Sina Cooperation and Ali. Sina Corporation holds 49.8% shares and 74.5% voting power in 2017, which is the largest shareholder and the controlling party. Ali WB holds 31% shares and 15.6% voting power, which is the second largest shareholder (Lei, 2017).
The business model is the key logic for creating a valuable system (Linder& Cantrell, 2001). Petrovicd (2001) also claimed that the business model is a business system that creating value through a series of business processes. The profit point always based on the users, which means online platforms make profits is aiming at the demand of users. As for Weibo here, the profits mainly get from online advertisement, membership service and online game. Different web portals might have a different focus (Wang, 2013)
Weibo makes profit relying on advertising significantly. Early in 2013, the advertising revenue of Sina has achieved 94,300,000 dollars (Souhu, 2013). After Weibo achieve a strategic cooperation with Alibaba, there are many window advertisings occurs below the normal posts.
Sina has created an application in 2013 for precision advertising that recommended ads based on the characters and social relations of the users. As the lenses advertising here that I have looked through the lenses selling these days. During this process, Sina Corporation charged these advertised stores base on the number of impressions, interactions and some related elements. Not only the stores, there are also many other advertisements inserted in Weibo including games publicize, enterprise promotion and many other merchants. The various advertising requirements become the main source of revenue for Sina.
As for the enterprises, launching microblogs could help them to achieve the common consensus of the brand, customer management, product distribution, talent recruitment, team building and many other benefits. Excepting from the advertising cooperation between Weibo and enterprises, there are two ways of the collaboration called ‘rapid enrollment’ and ‘meshare’. Such two methods could bring more new users, social relationships and page views for the enterprise website. Therefore, it has formed a long-term strategic corporation, which is one of the steady incomes of Sina.
As for the individuals, the membership services are their expenditure on Weibo. If you spend 10 Yuan per month, you will become a VIP member and get 24 items of privilege. The privilege including identity, function, security, mobile and game. These privileges attracting a large number of users including myself pay for the membership every month.
In addition to the three perspectives, the business model also including digital pay, online activities and many other resources to make profits (Wang, 2013).
An internet ecology can be regarded as the reflection of an organized system. This system which is based on the influence of the information technologies for supporting each other and carrying out the operations between interacting agents (Looi, 2001). Weibo which is one of the most popular applications in China, it situates itself as a multifunctional software for entertainment. Under the heavy market competition pressure, Weibo has its own internet ecologies, including partners and also competitors.
The main competitors of Weibo including chat software and news application. Weibo which is an application famous for the news communication function. It spreads the news in real time with information push service. Therefore, those professional and specific news applications are the direct competitors of Weibo. At the same time, it is also convenient for users with the communication function, and the professional chatting software including WeChat and QQ in China always threaten the status of Weibo.
The partnership including the payment supporting allows users for paying, and also the collaboration companies as I mentioned in the business model. The collaboration companies including some fashion applications like ‘MeiTu’- a picture editing application, they show the advertisements of each other on their homepage for gaining users.
The regulators including the relevant department to maintain the network order and security. They help to regularize the speech and behaviors of the users. At the same time, the public playing the role of supervisors that supervise the speech of each other.
Below is a diagram of Weibo’s internet ecology:
Weibo as a modern social media that distinguishes itself from the traditional media in that its audience participates and engages more actively in the communication process. Users are content producers themselves instead of mere consumers (Gaitano,2017). This is a platform that opened for the whole world, allowing individuals to share their lives, joys and sorrows with friends, stars or even strangers across the globe online. Not only for getting in touch with friends and get the information of people you have already know, with the existence of Weibo, you can also see the posts on the homepage of those famous stars directly. Fans always feel the distance between them and idols has shortened when they see the posts of the stars online.
Weibo is one of the first microblog platforms to comprise multimedia content sharing features which provides statistical analysis on the process of producing, consuming and propagating in it (Zhao et al., 2013). Weibo has a strong integrative function that the publishing could achieve through the webpage, message, mobile or other communication tools (Xie & Xu, 2011). It leads to the change of the communication modes between individuals online.
The most significant innovative feature of Weibo is ‘facing towards everyone’, which means everyone can see your post, comments your posts and retweet them freely. Under this circumstance, everyone becomes we-media and can post any news and information online. Everyone is independence with own opinions and changes the dynamic model of media, transformation method and also the mode of discourse. With the existence of Weibo, it helps the news discovery and information collection while emergency happens without professional journalists. Individuals have the abilities to report currently, no longer the journalists collect the information and report them later. Self-detecting today instead of making checks at all levels in traditional media (Wangyi, 2018) And it accelerates the speed of information transforming in the way of viral dimension now. According to the statistic provided by Shanghai Jiaotong University in 2010, 72 influential hot spots, Weibo was playing the role of the significant medium takes up 81%. It provides a new method for people searching, assisting in cracking criminal cases or managing the public relations crisis. And the public service like raising donations becomes more efficient.
From the political perspective, everyone has equal rights to speak and somehow changes the political production, operation, engagement the and modes of socialization. It promotes democracy, equality and liberty of political life (Zhang, 2018). At the same time, public opinions could impact some political decisions, individuals are more likely to be impacted by the consensus. On the other hand, the freedom of speech in social media might associate with the risk of cyberbully cannot be ignored. Others might be making verbal attacks out of responsibility unconsciously. It might easily lead to social anxiety and depression (Valkenburg & Piotrowski, 2017).
Switch to economic, the average growth rate of the world economy is around 3% while the internet and the related industry was twice or triple as it in recent years. It becomes the major contributor of the world economy. Comparing with the traditional ones, the cybereconomy shows the characteristics including quickness, hypertonicity, persistence and immediacy. The Internet brings up the enormous internet industries including Weibo, it becomes a new economic growth point and the significant engine boosting economic growth (Zhang, 2018).
In conclusion, Weibo occurred ten years ago in China and has become a mature and successful application with a large number of users. It changes the traditional way of news transformation and communication into novel ones with its multiple functions including posting, retweeting, commenting and sharing. The main income of Weibo relies on advertising as shown in its business model. Such an internet platform brings transformative impact in the social news transformation, political decision-making and also promote the economic development of the country.
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