Lao Ding, 40, a doctoral student at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS),
had never felt so embarrassed as he began working with a team of young
researchers in their 20s in Beijing.
to bridge the generation gap and share common topics, Lao bought a DVD of The
Promise and watched the $35-million production to better understand a famous
parody of the film by Hu Ge and follow the anti-Promise backlash around the
MONEY-MAKING ENTERPRISE: Xu Jinglei, one of
China's hottest celebrity bloggers, is involved in a dispute with her
host, Sina, over advertising on her blog.
Hu Ge is a blogger in Shanghai who does freelance video editing for animation
and advertising companies.
After seeing the latest disappointing offering by the Cannes Film Festival
Golden Palm Award-winning director Chen Kaige, he made a 20-minute spoof of the
film, called The Steamed Bun Murder, to "practice his editing skills."
The video clips spread quickly around the Web through his friends. Irritated,
Chen threatened in February to sue Hu for defamation and copyright violation.
As a fan of European films, Lao has never liked the Hollywood elements that
make movies a box office success. Thus, it was no surprise that he did not like
The Promise, but neither did he take a fancy to Hu's parody because of the
"insulting sarcasm," to which the "old-fashioned" Lao has not gotten accustomed.
He admitted, however, that while he was puzzled by what Chen wanted to
express in his movie, he did enjoy Hu's skill in mocking Chen's didacticism.
Were it not for Hu's parody and the opinions of the controversy in the
blogosphere, there is little chance that Lao, and many others, would have seen
The Promise. This fact justifies what a person who calls himself Hopesome said
in his blog, or personal Web log, called Podcasting Podium, "It is 'unwise' for
current copyright protection to restrict the public non-commercial reproduction
of works, because in an era when everyone is allowed to produce and 'remix'
Internet content, excessive copyright protection risks sacrificing the lion's
share of copyright holders."
Hopesome continued, "The movie and music industries, and traditional media,
should be far-sighted and ease their old ways of copyright protection to allow
the creation of much more interesting and wonderful remixed material, seeking a
win-win situation for each party involved."
Hu's parody is a podcasting product. Different from blogging, which uses
text, podcasting is a mixture of audio and video materials. The entire
blogosphere reflects the second generation of the Internet, or Web 2.0, which
encompasses sharing, participation, remixability and convergence.
Web 2.0 is "the living Web," a platform enticing people to contribute and
consume. According to Tim O' Reilly, founder and CEO of computer book publisher
O' Reilly Media, Web 2.0 applications "make the most of the advantages of that
platform," and "create network effects through an 'architecture of
Live, work and blog
According to the China Internet Industry Survey Report 2005-06 issued by the
Internet Society of China, by the end of 2005, the number of Chinese bloggers
amounted to 16 million, out of a worldwide total of more than 100 million.
It also predicts that the
number of Chinese bloggers will exceed 60 million by the end of this year,
accounting for one third of the total population of Internet users in China, and
reach 100 million next year.
POPULAR EXPRESSION: Wang Xiaofeng, an
entertainment writer for Life Weekly who keeps a blog called 'Massage
Milk,' is often on lists of favored bloggers on many websites because of
his sarcastic style.
Blogging changes the way the Internet functions in people's daily lives
because, as David Weinberger, co-author of the bestseller Cluetrain Manifesto,
describes. "On the Web, everyone is famous to 15 people." Ordinary Internet
users form the foundation of the blogging pyramid, as Hu Ge did before he became
a household name. Their blogs deal with their personal lives, happiness and
sorrow, opinions and gossip.
Lao found blogging to be a good thing once he registered a blog. As a father
of a boy and a girl, he has been the envy of many parents in a country where the
one-child policy is practiced. Nobody knew that he was allowed to have a second
child because his 10-year-old son suffers from a congenital heart defect.
He began to keep a blog to express his love and expectations for his
daughter. After he disclosed the information on her birthday last September,
many young parents with similar experiences left comments on his blog, and
through these links Lao got to know more people and they have formed an online
community. They discuss movies, and recommend blogs on travel and photography to
There seems, however, to be an agreement among these people, who are
approaching middle age and managing to balance families and careers, that they
should maintain contact only in the virtual world and never let each other into
their web of "guanxi," or connections.
"People at my age need friends in the pure and simple sense, and besides, we
would feel embarrassed if such a friend, who knows so much about you but little
of your real-world identity, walked into your real life," Lao explained.
Unlike Lao, young college graduates usually keep blogs and share them with
former classmates, friends and colleagues through MSN's My Spaces service
provided by Microsoft.
For these people, single, full of energy and ideas and eager to experience
life, there seem to be no boundaries to the topics discussed, and "fun" is their
Blogging for profit
The most eye-catching parts of the blogosphere, however, are big names in
show business and sports. Actress Xu Jinglei, for example, is one of the hottest
bloggers in China.
Her blog on Sina's celebrity blog community attracted more than 10 million
hits a mere 168 days after being launched last October.
By the end of last November, there were 36 million blogs and 600 blogging
service providers (BSP) in China, including Bokee.com, which raised over $10
million from four venture capital firms last September, blogcn.com and Sina,
China's largest Internet portal that pioneered the celebrity blog community last
year, according to the Internet Society of China report.
As Sina's celebrity blog service is widely viewed as a success, controversy
arose because a company suggested paying for an advertisement on Xu Jinglei's
blog. Sina believes Xu is not entitled to payments for any advertising, while Xu
contends she deserves it because "her diligence in updating the blog daily, her
fresh writing style as well as her healthy and positive image have boosted the
page views not only for her blog but also for the Web portal."
No settlement has been reached yet. The possible commercial use of the blog
was not mentioned in the agreement between the parties before the site was
launched, and there is no legal precedent to refer to in China.
Chen Tong, head of Sina's blogging service, explained that the company
introduced celebrity blogs as a promotion to attract more viewers to the portal
and never considered their commercial use.
Claiming that revenues from advertisements belong to the portal, Chen said he
was "uncertain and not optimistic about whether BSPs can make money this way in
the near future in China."
Hong Bo is the first blogger in China to receive payment for an advertisement
on his blog. He had declared that he would not extend his contract with Hexun, a
popular Chinese BSP, after the three-month contract expired in March because he
was "tired of the 'hustle and bustle' around making money out of blogging these
He said the low commercial returns could not support blogging as a
profession, such as a columnist, adding that blogs have the potential for
diversified commercial uses besides advertising.
In contrast, Liu Jun, Chief Editor of the Hexun.com website, is confident
about blog advertising, saying that every blog targets a very special audience,
which guarantees the effect of advertising, and that the network of bloggers
provides the advantages of both business-to-customer (B2C) and
customer-to-customer (C2C) marketing strategies.
Liu cited the example of a small wine producer named Starmhoek in Britain.
Starmhoek sent 100 influential bloggers each a bottle of wine and saw its sales
surge in less than one year.
Following Xu's dispute, many celebrities left Sina in early April. Bai Ye, a
literary critic, left because of his blog article on writers born in the 1980s.
The piece led to an abusive attack from Han Han, a young popular writer born
in the 1980s who stopped writing after finishing a couple of books to become a
professional race car driver.
Han's attack found an echo among his fans and the wrangle escalated and got
out of control when more people became involved.
"It's the invisibility of netizens that makes expressions online unrestrained
and kind of an irresponsible catharsis," said Zhan Jiang, professor of
journalism at the China Youth University for Political Science.
It seems in the freewheeling world of blogging there are many issues to
address before anybody can think of making money.