Weibo eyes expansion to 'Chinese-speaking world'

December 3, 2018 by Talek Harris
Weibo was launched in 2009 and has more than 400 million monthly active users, making it China's second biggest platform

Chinese social media giant Weibo is making a push into foreign markets and is considering launching new products in different languages, a senior executive told AFP, brushing off concerns over censorship and credibility.

The Twitter-style platform has long been prominent in China, known for its heavy censorship and Great Firewall, but it now wants to reach Chinese audiences overseas, Weibo Sports senior operations director Zhang Zhe said.

"We want everyone in the Chinese-speaking world to use Weibo," he said on the sidelines of the Sports Connects sport-business conference in Dongguan, southern China.

Zhang added that Weibo is also looking into hiving off new, more niche products in including English.

TikTok, a short-form video-sharing app, has proved wildly popular this year. Its Beijing-based creator, Bytedance, this week announced a global tie-up with basketball's NBA that will allow it to show highlights in several countries, including the US.

"Weibo is a very comprehensively developed product. We not only have videos, we also have images, graphics, articles, even live streams. So we've got everything," said Zhang, speaking through a translator.

"We can't just introduce Weibo outside the country, because there's already Twitter, Facebook.

"It doesn't really make sense to compete directly so if Weibo is going abroad, we think maybe if we have just one dedicated area of the product, we can really cut into the market, like TikTok did."

Zhang's comments and the Bytedance announcement show how Chinese internet companies, no longer content with the domestic market in the world's most populous nation, are beginning to look abroad.

But Chinese tech firms are not always welcomed overseas, with surveillance and data security chief among the concerns.

Last week, New Zealand blocked China's Huawei from its roll-out of 5G services, a move its largest telecoms carrier, Spark, blamed on national security worries.

Fake news

Foreign expansion would bring added scrutiny for Weibo, as Chinese social media are known not only for their censorship, but also fake news.

Zhang said Weibo had a team of more than 1,000 people verifying content on the network, and insisted it had strong editorial principles to keep its credibility intact.

"That's not something we're really worried about at the moment," he said, when asked whether censorship would affect the image of any launched abroad.

"Because Weibo comes from SINA, which is a big media company with very strong principles like every news company in the world.

"We also have a huge team working on the content to make sure the news credibility is good, so we don't think that's an issue."

Zhang said that despite its ambitions overseas, China remained the main focus for Weibo, which launched in 2009 and has more than 400 million monthly active users, making it the country's second biggest platform behind Tencent's WeChat.

Weibo has an unbeatable competitive advantage over Twitter and Facebook in China: the two US titans are among a number of foreign websites blocked by the Communist-led country's Great Firewall.

"In China, we want to go deep to tier three, tier four cities to get more users. On the other hand, we want to go abroad and find new countries and people who are waiting to use Weibo," said Zhang.

He added that Weibo could follow Bytedance by buying the rights to show sports footage, although its main strategy remained receiving free content from leagues keen to reach Chinese consumers.

"But in the future, depending on how the audience is evolving as well, we might actually tap in the market and buy media rights, for broadcasting via Weibo directly," he said.

Zhang added: "We want to go step by step. We don't want to take a big jump so that's why we don't have concrete plans for international expansion yet.

"We also believe that the Chinese in China and globally are a very huge market and our main focus now is really to make sure that we deliver in this market."

Explore further: China's Weibo eyes global expansion, foreign-language products

Related Stories

China's Tencent launches English microblog site

October 11, 2011

Chinese Internet giant Tencent has launched an English version of its Twitter-like microblogging service in a push to tap the overseas market, the official Xinhua news agency reported Tuesday.

China tightens online video controls, jolting investors

June 22, 2017

Three popular Chinese internet services have been ordered to stop streaming video after censors complained it contained improper comments on sensitive issues. The move prompted a sell-off in the U.S.-traded shares of Sina ...

Recommended for you

NASA instruments image fireball over Bering Sea

March 22, 2019

On Dec. 18, 2018, a large "fireball—the term used for exceptionally bright meteors that are visible over a wide area—exploded about 16 miles (26 kilometers) above the Bering Sea. The explosion unleashed an estimated 173 ...

Paleontologists report world's biggest Tyrannosaurus rex

March 22, 2019

University of Alberta paleontologists have just reported the world's biggest Tyrannosaurus rex and the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Canada. The 13-metre-long T. rex, nicknamed "Scotty," lived in prehistoric Saskatchewan ...

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.