China's Web Portals Open to Controversy

By March 11, 2008

China’s web portals are a major part of the country’s quickly expanding Internet.  Sites thrive on scandals and controversy in order to drive traffic to their sites.   Sites like,, Sina Corp., and Tencent Hold

ings Ltd.  perpetuate such controversies as doctored photos, sometimes organizing debates with academic experts and government officials.   The most recent example, dubbed “Tigergate,” involved a farmer’s photograph of a South China tiger, a critically endangered subspecies believed to be extinct in the Shaanxi Province where the photo was allegedly taken. After exciting an Internet craze, the photo drove to conduct a debate with the China Photographer Association, the Huxia Evidence Identification Centre, professors from Zhongshan University, the Forensic Science Association of China, a zoologist, and a detective.   Unlike American web portals like and which rely on advertising revenue, China’s portals rely on an array of revenue, from messaging systems to online games. The lack of a defined revenue flow pushes these portals to jump on internet crazes and drive much needed traffic to their site. In contrast, Yahoo and Google are economically driven by advertising, freeing them to deliver more credible news and content.   Though currently small, business for China’s portals is growing quickly. According to the Data Centre of the China Internet, the portals’ total 2007 revenue reached 12.35 billion Yuan ($1.73 billion), up from 10 billion Yuan in 2006. The top four web portals accounted for a little over three-quarters of the 2007 revenue, a sum expected to reach over 16 billion Yuan this year and 21.33 billion Yuan next year.   Instead of taking a passive approach to internet scandals, China’s web portals fan the flames of controversy, pulling in traffic until the fire burns out.   By Danny Scuderi L’Atelier   FEEDBACK For comments on this article, email us at

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