by Hong Bo aka Keso. This was supposed to be the third post of the series, but since Sina Music Box, the digital music platform jointly produced by Sina and the five big record companies, is now online, I would like to make it the second. During one of our dinners a while ago, Chen Tong (Executive Vice President and Chief Editor of Sina - translator) asked several .....
by Hong Bo aka Keso.
This was supposed to be the third post of the series, but since
, the digital music platform jointly produced by Sina
and the five big record companies, is now online, I would like to
make it the second.
During one of our dinners a while ago, Chen Tong (Executive Vice
President and Chief Editor of Sina - translator) asked several
waiters of the restaurant which websites do they usually visit, all
three of them mentioned Baidu
, one mentioned Sohu
, and nobody mentioned Sina
. They have the unanimous purpose
of visiting Baidu: To download music. This is a piece of evidence
of how influential Baidu's MP3 search function is. Right on the
spot, Chen disclosed to us that his secret weapon is coming out of
the factory soon, and when the day comes, he said, users are gonna
have free access to hundreds of thousands of songs online, without
being vulnerable on the issue of piracy.
The problem is that piracy has never seemed to be an issue in
China. Endless lawsuits against Baidu are filed by record companies
and copyright owners, who eventually realize that it's mission
impossible to crack it down, and the more sensible option is to sit
down and talk to Baidu. Just like China Mobile (the biggest mobile
carrier in China - translator) controls the channel of paid
services, Baidu controls the users of digital music. Chinese
Internet users don't bother to ask whether the music they download
is legal or not, they just choose whichever channel that is free
(as in free lunch), it can't get simpler than that.
By providing legal music download, Sina Music Box will make itself
adored by the record companies (Sina's stock went up for 4.18% the
day the news broke out), but it will hardly appeal to the users.
Try searching for Lao Lang 老狼's new album with the keywords '老狼'
and '北京的冬天', shockingly, you'll end up with
from Sina Music Box. In Baidu, however, you'll get
. Whom do you think that users would choose?
Sina Music Box is merely the company's latest attempt to regain
its dominant position on the battlefield of Chinese Internet. Just
like many of its previous moves, this one is lame enough to
foreshadow the internet portal's inevitable fall. Sina defined the
model of Chinese online journalism with two distinctive features:
large volume and rapidness. Because of these two features, it has
been the public enemy of traditional media, whose hope of competing
against Sina on the internet was shattered when they realized that
they were merely working _for_ Sina, who has been feeding on the
news stories they produce. Caijing Magazine has muttered
against Sina on behalf of the desperate
traditional media. Sina, however, gradually came to the realization
that they are also merely working for someone else. As the online
distributor of information, the news supermarket model of Sina is
on its way to be replaced by the sorter of online information,
namely search engines. Here comes Baidu.
Despite its highly valuable news search function, Baidu has never
been a real news website, which is to say that Sina still maintains
its nine-year-old leading position in the business. With
Baidu's being granted the news reporting license
changes are blowing in the wind.
I don't think Baidu will be doing civilian journalism. The model
not viable in China, especially when you eye for media's
agenda-setting privilege and the huge profit of advertisement. The
Achilles' heel of Sina is its fragile relation with traditional
media, and this is what Baidu can take advantage of. By licensing
its content, traditional media get almost nothing from Sina except
for the one-hundred-thousand or so licensing fee and the brand
exposure which may or may not be noticed by the readers. And their
own online presence are severely limited by the sheer dominance of
Sina's news supermarket.
As a distribution centre of page view, search engines can bring a
lot of important readers and users to traditional media's own
websites, and this is something that Sina is not capable of with
its current model. What are the most valuable pages of Sina? Take a
look at the ones with the highest density of ads and you'll see:
it's the news centre and the front pages of respective sections.
These are the only pages that the still-imaginary Baidu news
website needs to maintain, as content-hungry readers will be
effectively channeled to the websites of individual newspapers and
Different from the love-and-hate relation that Sina maintains with
traditional media, Baidu should see that it has potentially the
same interest with them. Apart from sharing page view, Baidu can
also serve as the ad agency for traditional media's websites and
share ad revenue with them. The conventional wisdom that
traditional media would inevitably fail when they try to expand to
the internet is not necessarily true.
Now that traditional media is collectively experimenting with
online model, which do they prefer? Sina or Baidu? There might be
one day when most of the traditional media sign an exclusive
licensing agreement with Baidu, and that would be the end of the
Sina news model.
I believe that Chen Tong has foreseen the day long time ago,
that's why he has signed multiple years of licensing agreement
with many important media. Come to think of it now, it's indeed
difficult to imagine that those media willingly accepted and drank
this bottle of poison from Sina. But eventually, openness is going
to beat closeness, and self-interest is going to be defeated by
mutual-interest, this is not only a trend, this is business.