Mintz on China: Bloggers have the ears of the Chinese internet audience

Nearly one in four Chinese internet users blog - 47 million at the end of 2007. Chinese will soon be the number one language in the blogosphere.

The appeal - particularly to women, who create the majority of content - is that it offers a chance to record personal lives, share feelings and socialise. Many Chinese maintain blog-journals that are updated several times a day. There was even a contest to find the country's "Most Beautiful Blogger".

The best blogs attract a strong readership. The most popular include that by actress Xu Jing Lei, who writes about her life, and attracts an estimated 150 million visitors a month.

Blogs in Western markets are mainly about critical comment, but in China they appeal to a population that is hungry for entertainment news. Key platforms are Sina, Blogcn, Sohu, MSN Spaces and Q-Zone, with some signs of specialisation. Blog.Sina attracts the commentary of the elite, while CnBlogs pulls in the IT crowd.

But what's in it for marketers? Several things. First, marketers will gain a closer relationship with a focus group of consumers. Blogs are a fertile ground for understanding and driving insight. Second, this is a great opportunity to build the brand of the story into the lives of these bloggers.

China's online advertising revenue surged by 75 per cent to 10.6 billion yuan ($1.48 billion) in 2007 but the blogging environment is significantly less cluttered.

The average website will have a multitude of flashing messages, but blogs are relatively ad free. The more commercial such as Qzone has, for example, small Nokia and Toyota ads, while the more independent Blogcn has virtually no ads.

A good strategy for identifying appropriate blogs is to use search engine keywords via platforms such as Baidu and Alibaba to determine audience and ad potential.

Blogs can also be categorised by the demographic or target audience they are most likely to appeal to. Sports blogs, for instance, would be obvious places for messages from brands such as Nike and Gatorade.

Blogging is on an upward curve, new blogs and bulletin boards launch every day, giving the ever-growing numbers of Chinese - rich and poor - more ways to tell their stories online.

Dan Mintz is chief creative officer and founder of DMG, China