Chinese Internet Monetizes, Hits ‘Adolescence’ as Censors Are Content

TAIPEI (TheStreet) -- A trio of Chinese Internet heavyweights announced plans this month to start a platform for independent news bloggers. The paid service comes as a bellwether for today's China as bloggers get fewer but more serious, providers learn to make money and the criticism-wary Communist government perfects content controls.

Sina's (SINA) Weibo (WB) platform will find advertisers linked to blog content as it plans to start by the end of July, according to Chinese tech media. Qihoo 360 (QIHU) will offer links to recommended content and UCWeb will suggest independent blogger articles to users of its browser.

This partnership follows Weibo's statement in May that it would monetize its platform to let independent bloggers get a share of revenues from ads on their posts.

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At the same time, China's blogging ranks are shrinking as dedicated commentators dig in while experimental ones drop out or shift to social media. Total bloggers dropped from 309 million in 2012 to 281 million last year. And the government's censorship scheme has expanded from blocking sites according to crude keyword searches some 10 years ago. Now censors use 60 local and central departments to keep track of text, images and innuendo.

"Blogging in China is far from dead. It has just moved from a nascent to an adolescent stage," says Danny Levinson, Beijing-based former CEO with marketing software firm Vocus. "Chinese regulations have always existed to frame how netizens shout, cry, laugh and smile online, and both those laws and expressions will not change anytime soon."

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