Social media trails in China

10 June 2011

BEIJING: Social media and online retail usage is lower than that for portals and entertainment sites in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, a study has found.

Research firm comScore has released figures detailing evolving habits in these three markets, excluding internet cafes and mobile handsets.

It reported that portals, a segment housing players like Netease, Sina and Sohu, took 24% of time spent utilising the net during April 2011.

Tencent, the parent of instant messaging platform QQ and "multimedia spaces" provider Qzone, headed the uptake charts here, with a 64.4% reach across its portfolio.

The company recently introduced Q+, adding various enhancements to QQ, such as video streaming, an electronic payment system and sharing tools linked to films.

"Launching Q+ is the result of our internal evolution of the QQ product because we realsze that user time spent on instant messaging has been declining over the years," Xiong Minghua, Tencent's chief technology officer, said.

Elsewhere, comScore revealed that 9% of April's online minutage was attributable to entertainment platforms.

Video property Youku performed most effectively when it comes to penetration, securing 19.2% on this metric.

As with Tencent, innovation has assumed a central role for Youku, which unveiled the Soku search facility on its site in May, supplying better listings and personalised recommendations.

"We want our users to be engaged - whether they're content creators or content consumers," said Jian Yao, Youku's chief technology officer.

"We're capitalising our knowledge about user behavior and applying them to the question of how we can shorten the distance between people and the content they want to watch."

Meanwhile, search engines held 6.2% of the market when discussing the duration of usage in April.

Baidu, the category's established leader for the volume of enquiries, was accessed by 59.4% of the country's internet audience, according to comScore.

While the search arena is relatively developed, social networks are enjoying rapid growth in China as the world's most populous nation starts to catch up with the more mature markets of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

However, these services do not yet appear to have achieved a high degree of stickability, responsible for only 5.5% of the time netizens dedicated to the web in April.

The range of sites belonging to Oak Pacific Interactive, which includes social network Renren, were visited by 17.8% of the connected community in the geographies assessed.

Renren completed an initial public offering in New York on May 4, and even though share prices have fallen since this date, the organisation's outlook goes beyond such a brief timeframe.

"We have a long-term plan for the next 30 years," Joseph Chen, the company's chief executive, said at the time.

"I think the US has the largest group of technology-savvy investors ... who have the ability to tell which products will do well, so we think for our type of business this is the best place to list."

Ecommerce constitutes another hotly-tipped growth sector, particularly in China, but comScore stated digital retailers currently take 5% of the time consumers spend on the net.

Alibaba, owner of an eponymous business-to-business service and Taobao, a consumer-facing site, saw its sites attract 36.5% of the potential user base during April this year, and remains dominant.

Data sourced from comScore/Shanghai Daily; additional content by Warc staff