Weibo is a creative product in the era of Web2.0. In many countries, “micro revolution” has been launched. After the launch of Sina Weibo in 2009, it quickly entered a stage of rapid development, from the edge to the mainstream, and became a model of China Weibo. With the focus on the impact of this electronic technology on human life, and will pay attention to critically analyze Sina Weibo and its effects on traditional media and modern politics.
The first part of this article will outline the use of Weibo. Next, the second part will examine Weibo’s historical development. Weibo’s business economic model and Internet ecosystem will also be inspected in the third and fourth parts. Finally, the influence of Weibo on traditional media and modern politics will be discussed.
What is Weibo?
Weibo, which is short for microblog. It is a platform for information sharing, dissemination, and acquisition based on user relationship. Users can update information in 140 words and realize instant sharing through WEB, WAP and individual communities of various client components (Guan, 2014). The earliest and most famous microblog is Twitter in the United States. According to CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center) report in 2015, there are 212 million monthly active Weibo users (as cited in Jiang, 2017). In August 2009, China’s largest Website Sina produced Sina Weibo, as the first website to provide microblogging services in China website, microblogging has officially entered the mainstream view of Chinese Internet users. Nowadays, Weibo news, Weibo marketing, Weibo demonstration have entered people’s lives. It further broadening people’s horizons and making people’s lives more democratic and convenient, making life more colorful.
The historical development of Sina Weibo
In the second half of 2009, in response to the government’s supervision of online speech. Mini-blog websites in mainland China deleted and posted a large number of sensitive keywords, suspended searches, domain names could not be resolved, and all servers were shut down. In the 505 days of being closed, Sina, Netease, Tencent, and other portals have launched microblogging services; especially the Sina Weibo is the fastest. In July 2009, Sina’s management decided to do microblogging as a product. On August 2009, it took only two months for Sina Weibo to begin internal testing. On September, it officially added @, private messages, comments, and reposted functions, which have become the most basic functions of Weibo so far. At that time, Sina Weibo adopted the same promotion strategy as Sina Blog, that inviting celebrities to reside and authenticating their real names. After confirming, the letter “V” will be added to the username to show their identity and promote the growth of early users by celebrity effect (Jendryke, Balz and Liao, 2017).
Sina Weibo, breaking through the siege, not only has terrific users’ data but also has made achievements in cooperation and product function updating. In September 2012, a group of “close friends” appeared on the PC side of Sina Weibo, formally announcing that Weibo has entered the private social sphere. In January 2013, Sina Weibo launched version 3.3.0, adding the function of “close friends” to strengthen the private social circle, expanding the way of mobile interaction. “Close friends ” support LBS positioning service. Users can get their location information when publishing own Weibo (Liu, Alexandrova and Nakajima, 2013), which is an important step on the way of the development of private social networking in Weibo. Besides, the “Like” button is fully embedded in the information flow of the Weibo client, which enriches the interaction between users besides reposting, sharing, commenting and collecting.
With more and more foreign stars entering Sina Weibo, language translation has become an urgent need for Chinese fans to communicate with foreign idols at zero distance. For instance, Korean and Japanese are still difficult for most users. In January 2013, Sina Weibo and Netease Youdao announced strategic cooperation (Chen, Zhang, Lin, Lv, 2011). Users can obtain translation results directly through Youdao Dictionary when browsing different content published by foreign stars of Sina Weibo, which meets the language needs of Sina Weibo users.
Weibo’s business economic models
There are three profit models of Sina Weibo. The first type is the direct profit model which including associated advertising and real-time search. According to the report from China, social media advertising spends outlook 2018 (2014) “online advertising spend in the China accounting for 8.4%.” Compared with traditional portals, community-based microblogging will help Sina better understand users, including users’online behavior and user characteristics, thus assisting advertisers to identify target customers better. For real-time information, the challenge it faces is that it may be useful or spam information for users. But it is undeniable that advice from friends or celebrities is often trustworthy. If the search can identify valuable information to users, it will generate huge profit potential.
The second type is the cross-selling model. At present, 5,000 enterprises have launched official Weibo on Sina that mainly for online promotion, public relations or recruitment (Li, 2012). Sina is entirely free for those functions, and there is no sign of future fees. However, bundling sales as a comprehensive solution for brand advertisers will help Sina increase its market share in online brand advertising. For instance, Sky-mobi forms strategic cooperation with Sina Weibo (2011), it reported: “Sina Weibo has provided a lot of valuable traffic for third-party websites, especially for online e-commerce and online video.” There are at least three ways that Sina Weibo can share traffic. For instance, it can cooperate with official Weibo of third-party websites – Taobao Mall. Because of the development system adopted by Sina Weibo that more people will use “Share to Sina” and the value of “Click Back” will bring potential profit opportunities. Because after the users back to the page, the users will get rebates to some extent.
The last type is opening API that means revenue sharing with APP developers and content providers. This model is similar to the open platform strategy of Facebook and Tencent. Opening API can bring thousands of third-party application developers to Sina platform. So far, there are more than 500 third-party applications on Sina platform, including client software and web games. As the scale of the platform continues to expand, the profit model will continue to change. For user-oriented platforms, the most wonderful thing is that the range of the platform continues to develop and the distance between users is shrinking. Although the operation time is not long, Sina Weibo platform has shown great potential in combination with emerging services such as group buying and LBS (Location Based Services).
Sina Weibo’s internet ecology
Any individual or organization on the Weibo platform may become an information dissemination center. However, Netease, Sohu, and Tencent also have their microblog sites, and each has its development advantages. These are professional competitors. Like WeChat and QQ, people often use to have communication, and they can also find useful information.
Micro-blog applies to people around the world who are over fourteen years of age. The way to use it is very convenient. No matter where the user is, the user can use it whenever the need to log on the account. The third-generation technology system of Weibo platform uses orthogonal decomposition method to build a model: in the horizontal direction, it uses a typical three-level hierarchical model, namely interface layer, service layer and resource layer. In the vertical direction, it is further subdivided into business architecture, technology architecture, monitoring platform and service governance platform (Wang, Rho, Chen and Cai, 2017;2015). China as a one-party ruling country, the atmosphere of public opinion is not loose. Users’ online comments have been supervised by the government. Beijing has introduced Weibo’s real name system management method. Users can also report other people’s improper remarks at any time; it may even be liable.
Sina Weibo Open Platform provides two services: website access and application opening. The Open Platform shares excellent user resources and data resources of Sina Weibo with partners. Such as cooperation with Taobao. Value-added service micro-coin is similar to Tencent’s Q-coin. The micro-blog platform issues virtual products and value-added services on the Weibo platform, including virtual products and services provided by third parties.
Below is a diagram of Weibo’s internet ecology:
The influence of Weibo on traditional media and modern politics
Weibo gradually challenges the mainstream position of traditional media. At 8:49 a.m. on November 26, 2005, a magnitude 5.7 earthquake occurred in Jiangxi. 14 minutes after the Jiujiang earthquake, Wuhan felt a strong sense of shock.
A Wuhan netizen sent out the earliest earthquake news on his Weibo. Sina’s time is 9:36 a.m., Sohu’s time is 9:51 a.m. and QQ’s time is 9:50 a.m. This is the first time that Weibo has shown great power in the rapid reporting of emergencies. At 9:16 this morning, Jiujiang netizens sent out the news of the earthquake, and briefly described the situation and feelings of the quake. At this time, the Weibo network opened the Jiujiang Earthquake Broadcast, reporting the news about the earthquake in a real-time rolling way. Most of the story comes from the netizens in earthquake-related areas such as Jiujiang and Wuhan. It is the most real feeling from the front line. There is no formal news report format and routine. It is a kind of individualized random record, but it is the most faithful reflection. With the popularity of the Internet in China and the combination of mobile terminals and Weibo, the spread of similar emergencies has shrunk to two minutes or even faster from the occurrence to publication which is a speed that traditional media just cannot imagine.
Weibo as a new medium, primarily as a master of self-media. It has played an unexpected role in people’s democracy. Yang (2014) believes that “Weibo is a new way to promote political democratization.” Some media have given Weibo the reputation of “China-style accelerator of the democratic process” (Sullivan, 2014), and believe that Weibo is promoting the reform process of their government. As a new form of “Internet governance,” Weibo’s influence on China’s political democratization is in all aspects.
Accurately, it is reflected in democratic elections. Weibo promoted democratic elections at the grass-roots level and supported the work of public opinion collection of deputies at various levels. In 2010, some representatives of the National People’s Congress began to solicit public opinion through Sina Weibo, expose proposals, interact with netizens, and submit netizens’ views to the Congress for discussion.
Secondly, it is reflected in the field of democratic decision-making. The appearance of Weibo provided a public opinion field for government decision making to collect public sentiment and public opinion. For example, in August 2011, the information that “the State Administration of Taxation intends to levy a nominal tax” came out on the internet (Fu, 2013). For a time, the voice of online public opposition opinion rose sharply. On August 31, the Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation jointly issued a notice to suspend the imposition of the tax. On the one hand, it shows that the relevant departments of the state pay attention to listening to public opinion. On the other hand, it is also considered as another application of micro-power in the democratic decision-making of the government.
Thirdly, it appears in the field of democratic management. Especially in rural areas, community-based democratic governance, and public security system information disclosure, Weibo has also played an important role. Finally, it highlights democratic supervision, which is promoted by Weibo and urges the resolution of events. Weibo has a considerable user population and a fast way of publishing and reposting. When the event triggers netizens’ sympathy or disgust based on social psychology, the game will be quickly forwarded and discussed by thousands or even millions of people in a brief period to form public opinion pressure and urge the excellent solution of the event.
The final note
Alexa’s data show that Sina Weibo users have declined since August 11 (Zhang, 2014). Although the number of registered users is increasing, the user stickiness is decreasing and the login time is less and less. While Weibo has successfully changed the public opinion space in China, it has also become a place where rumors are rampant. Almost every day in Weibo, there is a struggle between scandals and refuting rumors. There are many rumors in Weibo that have had a negative impact on the real society; even the Weibo operators cannot escape the bad luck.
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