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Race for Chinese eyeballs

I’m a huge fan of video-sharing sites. They’re fun, hugely addictive and essential for people without cable. It’s also very…

By Cynthia Yoo , in Blogs SNS 3.0: The Asian Invasion , on January 31, 2008

I’m a huge fan of video-sharing sites. They’re fun, hugely addictive and essential for people without cable.

It’s also very convenient when I’m looking for videos from the motherland. I remember way back, when my mom and I would borrow soap-operas from the local Korean super-market, hoping that the old VHS tapes wouldn’t get eaten by the video player (VHS-tapes? I realize I’m really dating myself here…sigh).

My Chinese friends don’t have such problems these days. They can go onto any number of Chinese video-sharing sites where they can watch their fave soap operas and Canto-pop stars.

In fact, there’s a huge turf-war raging in China over these video UGC-sites. At one point, over 200 video-sharing sites operated in China. Now there are about ten, excluding video-sharing services by the big portal sites such as Sina and QQ.

In the battle for video-UGC “eyeballs” in China, here are some issues to mull over.

Let’s start off with the basic proof. Video-UGC is big and will only grow bigger. It’s a pretty obvious point to make but it’s important to note that monetization strategies are not well-formulated at this point. Despite this, people are willing to invest and invest big in the field.Tudou.com:  China's leader in video-sharing sites

In China, the race is heating up because of the Beijing games. It’s “make-it or break-it” time, because the UGC site that catches the most public attention and usage during the games will win a lasting reputation.

The 2002 World Cup in Korea was a classic ‘tipping point’ example. The big portal sites, not the mainstream media sites, became the go-to sites for the Korean public to post and share their news about the Cup. The mainstream media sites failed to capitalize on this huge surge of “crowd-powered” content during the Cup.

Having said that, there are numerous issues and hurdles in the battle for Chinese eyeballs.

1. As always, money is key. Even basic bandwidth is a key expense for the video UGC-market and the past year has seen furious amount of venture capital into a number of popular UGC-sites.

2. Some Chinese observers think the UGC-sites need to pare-down. Less social-networking functions, they say, and more of the essentials of a UGC-site: more online storage, faster speed, and better SEO (search engine optimization). This is an interesting point, given that UGC-sites focus on social networking tools and applications.

3. Another is the issue of content. Chinese bloggers complain that despite the craze over UGC-sites, the Chinese public doesn’t create original content for these sites, especially for the video-sharing sites. They point their finger at the public and argue that the Chinese public is not part of that “You” deemed person of the Year by Time Magazine.

I understand these criticisms, but content does not always have to be original to be interesting and informative. What characterize the UGC-experience are the mash-ups, the derivations and commentaries. Heck, most of my blog-content belongs to the latter categories.

4. Finally, mobile-phone based UGC-applications have the potential to reach a lot more of the Chinese public than Internet-based UGC-applications.

The CWR guys write: “MU Rong (Founder/CEO of PepTalk) told us that in some high WAP traffic generation area like Guangdong province, lots of people don’t have a PC. Mobile phone is their only way to access Internet. So when we talk about mobile UGC in China, we are looking at a much larger market than only thinking of Internet UGC.”

Whew, this battle for the Chinese UGC-market is turning out to be a doozy.  Guess, I’ll keep an eyeball or two glued onto it.

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