Microblogging platforms are playing an ever more prominent role in media coverage of China. On his Transpacifica blog, Graham Webster attempts to quantify the boom:
For a really rough measure of how much foreign reporters are depending on Chinese microblogs to cover public sentiment, I searched LexisNexis’s “Major World Publications” database for mentions of China along with any one of the words “weibo,” “microblog,” or “micro-blog.” (Weibo, in addition to being Sina’s brand, literally means “micro blog.”)
This measure is horribly imperfect …. The trend, however, seems clear. After the first mentions in mid-2009, when Sina Weibo launched, Nexis shows few mentions until a surge beginning in late 2010. In the last few months, the trend is upward.
“Why use our services?” one company called Yangcheng Media asks on its website. “Who would you follow? Somebody with 2,000 followers or 20,000 followers? The answer is easy: most people have a herd mentality.”
The firm offers up 100 followers for just one yuan ($0.15), in a bid to make users of China’s popular Twitter-like weibo services stand out from the pack ….
The number of weibo users more than tripled from January to June this year alone, reaching nearly 195 million — roughly equal to Brazil’s population — according to the semi-official China Internet Information Center.