Internet

Sina's celebrity strategy to harness the eyeball economy

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What drives perfectly normal, well-adjusted celebrities to get involved in self-destructive online arguments? Sina's celebrity blogging experiment is not even a year old, and already infighting among participants has led to a number of highly entertaining public feuds carried out in blog posts among the primary participants, and in the comments sections among the legions of fans.

Entertaining for the onlookers, that is. Quite a few celebrities have decided that blogging isn't worth the abuse and have retreated back offline. What's going on here? Is it impossible to merely have a presence online without dirtying your hands?

Wang Xiaofeng suggests that Sina is cynically manipulating these celebrities to attract more traffic:

Inciting crowds to fight crowds

Wang Xiaofeng

Apologies. I'm going to attack Sina again.

Celebrity blogs are Sina's secret weapon, but they are also a double-edged sword; done badly, they'll injure themselves, too. When Sina opened blogs for celebrities, it seemed that they had already recognized the celebrities' value. They missed the boat on blogging at first, but they were able to make a later departure. Better clever than early, and you can't deny Sina's strengths. It feels like a gang of johns out crusing for a hooker - when a john finally goes at it, and the hooker immediately comes, the john says, "See, I'm the man!"

To get a bunch of celebrities, especially a bunch of celebrities who don't really get the Internet, to open blogs for them is a pretty big hassle. Sina's employees had to register and login for them, assist them in selling their network copyrights. But it also has its advantages: because they don't understand, you can make use of their ignorance. Even more importantly, to take advantage of celebrity voices to kick up a few situations is what every media entity dreams of. Sina's getting this bunch of celebrities gives it an advantage. Celebrities are always into petty rivalries, so don't think that they are normally civil. When I interview celebrities, there's this technique - if I run across someone who doesn't want to be interviewed, I say, "Look, Zhang, Li, Wang, and Zhao have expressed their views on this subject, but it's my opinion that they haven't reached the heart of the matter. I believe that in this case, it would be better to have you speak...." Celebrities are susceptible to sweet talk, when they're flattered it sets off their vanity. On the virtual Vanity Fair that is the Internet, this narcissism is even more naked. Naturally Sina knows this, and has done its best to do up its celebrity blogs a bit showily. So petty rivalries on the Internet have become a sort of celebrity mentality, although the contests in the thick of things tend to be understated.

However, this alone is insufficient. Vanity does not make news, so Sina ultimately grabbed the opportunity to take advantage of Bai Ye to provoke Han Han, and then roped in more celebrities for a pitched battle, finally getting all of society to pay attention. This stroke was quite successful, and quite bastardly as well.

Following warnings to Sina from various departments, the curtain quickly fell on the farce. Now that the affair is over, what is truly worth thinking about is not some question of literary credentials, nor Han Han ending up as the dignified victor, but rather why celebrities became so stupid for that period of time, why they became Sina's puppets?

Suppose a newspaper instigated something like this - it's likely few people would be fooled. But one of the qualities of the Internet is so-called interactivity. Interactivity may be well and good, but when it strikes at the softest points of a person, be they celebrity or otherwise, they have no power to resist this interaction. The reservation, pretense, or stony silence shown by celebrities in the face of the media in real life is shattered in an instant, and all is pandemonium.

It's all good, let the public enjoy their gluttonous feast. But it's boring no matter how I look at it. This idiocy-guided battle among the elite seems to have no genuine winner. Untrue - Sina now has begun to egg on conflict between Tao Dongfeng and Xiao Ding, in an apparent retread of the Han-Bai fight. If Tao Dongfeng wants to blog his way to fame, fine, if he's fundamentally unsuited to the online environment and customs, then he should make a quick exit, otherwise he'll come to a horrible end. You should know that Xiao Ding has fans all over - far more than Li Yuchun's.

Inciting one group to fight another was Mao Zedong's specialty. Sina is now continuing along Mao Zedong's line of thought - that's being creative. In the future, will be we able to say "Hold fast to Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Three Represents, the Eight Honors and Eight Disgraces, and Sina's Provocation"? The web is a place of speaking freely, airing views, and criticizing, but absolutely not a place to discuss scholarship. It ultimately will become a melee; no good can come of granting the public the right to speak. As an example, why does the Netherlands always play so poorly in the World Cup? Simply because the Netherlands is too democratic - the players are all coaches, so they play and play and eventually blow it. Ultimately, they are trying not to win the game, but to win more chatter.

Sina tends this bunch of celebrities, and gets things going when there's nothing going on - who knows which ones are going to be at each other's throats? And at the end of the day, Sina sits back and profits at their expense. The Han-Bai fight was done up all large-scale, and was ripped up by the government. I've found that Sina, like a dog, remembers the food but not the beatings - it's once again preparing to act. As for celebrities, don't think that they all are civil - they too recall the food but not the beatings. This reminds me of an old joke: a newspaper seller stands on the street shouting, "Massive scam - 78 people fooled!" A stupid onlooker hands over his money for a copy, looks through the paper, but doesn't find any news about a scam. The paper seller continues shouting: "Massive scam - 79 people fooled."

The eyeball economy is way to handle the online era, but can you avoid manipulating people like some gadfly to attract those eyeballs? Do it a bit more sophisticated, ok?

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