Sina (NSDQ: SINA) Weibo, the microblogging service operated by China’s Sina portal company, is planning to launch in English in the U.S. in two to three months, bringing it in to competition with Twitter, according to “informed sources”, says the Chinese technology news site TechWeb, in a story with no firm backup.
Sina introduced the service in August 2009; it already has 140 million users and plans to match Twitter’s 200 million. Leading Tencent, Baidu (NSDQ: BIDU) and Sohu (NSDQ: SOHU), Weibo has a 56 percent share (source: iResearch) of what is now a pretty active Chinese microblogging scene – perhaps surprisingly successful, given the country’s reputation for limiting online free speech.
The power of microblogs was epiphanically revealed to Chinese when, after a trend in which people post pictures of missing street kids, a father was reunited with his child recently.
Weibo actually includes more features than Twitter, like groups and polling. But what could Weibo do in the west? Networks effects suggest Twitter has now locked up the microblogging market, is ahead of Weibo on monetisation strategy and the “Weibo” brand doesn’t necessarily trip of the tongue.
But Weibo may well appeal to the millions of Chinese in western countries. Linking them with those in China could produce big effects for international sharing, freedom – and ad sales.
The SIG Susquehanna analyst firm says (via): “We forecast Sina Weibo will generate $10 mln, $45 mln and $100 mln in ad revenue in 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively (see Figure 2). For the corresponding periods, social apps revenue is assumed to be $0 mln, $10 mln and $20 mln. By 2013, we believe Sina will likely have 10K paying business accounts, with average ad revenue of $10K per account annually.”