Chinese Twitter-like service expects to make revenue

Users of Weibo, Sina's microblogging service, will increase to 100 million next year

A popular Twitter-like service in China expects to start making ad revenue next year, putting it on track to what might produce a successful business model for microblogging.

The Weibo microblogging service was launched in August 2009 by one of China's leading Internet portal companies, Sina, and has attracted more than 50 million users in just over a year.

The number is still small compared to Twitter, which had 175 million registered users as of September, but the U.S.-based company was launched back in 2006. Twitter has also been seen as slow to make big revenues, and only launched its first advertising model in April.

Sina's success with its microblogging platform comes more than year after Twitter was blocked in China. The ban on that site appears to stem from the Chinese government's attempt to stop the flow of information surrounding an ethnic riot last year.

Domestic microblogging services like Weibo, on the other hand, have stepped in and flourished, even as certain users' microblogs have been regulated. Sina's service will start making ad revenue next year, said Sina's CEO Charles Chao during a Tuesday conference call. At the same time, the company expects the microblog's user base to reach 100 million by the first half of 2011. China has more than 420 million Internet users, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

Sina's CEO made the comment as the company posted big earnings. Net profits for the third quarter reached US$ 31.3 million, an increase of 87 percent from the same period last year.

Last week, Sina also struck a partnership with Microsoft's joint venture, MSN China, that will involve the two partners cooperating in the areas of microblogging, instant messaging and other social media services. Under the agreement, the companies are working to integrate their products with each other.

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