Posted by Alice Xin Liu on Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 11:40 AM
Dan Brody, CEO of 360quan.com
The Koolanoo Group, a new media investment company focused on China, has invested in the social networking site 360quan.com, which wants to fill a particular niche: the post-90s generation.
Dan Brody was Google's first employee in China and a veteran of the technology industry here. He is the CEO of 360quan.com.
360quan.com was started in 2007 and hoped to attract the quirkier side of Chinese Internet users. Brody says they get a couple of hundred thousand logins a day. The COO of the company, Chen Qi, who was one of the first people that started 360quan.com, had this to say about the post-90s generation at our interview:
Visiting Brody in the 360quan.com office in Tower D of The Place in Beijing, the office was terrifyingly modern and houses over 100 people. With large spaces for meeting rooms, a cafe, and comfortable chairs. Brody's office was luxurious and overlooked the top of the signature ceiling-screen of The Place.
When logging onto 360quan.com, it's not immediately apparent that you've stumbled into the weird world of posting pictures taken from the flattering 45 degrees above your head, or that users are encouraged to "PK" each other under the categories of "sunniness" (阳光), "figure" (身材), "beauty" (美丽), "being cool" (搞酷), and "on the street" (街头). But after looking around for a while, this presentation of physical attributes is only part of the site: it is still focused on social networking, games, applications but there are also sections on body modification and fashion.
If the photos are not to your taste, then you probably don't belong to this group or share their aesthetics. However, Dan Brody, CEO of 360quan.com, agreed to be interviewed by Danwei and talked about the social networking site that is specifically targeted at the "post-90s generation":
Danwei: 360quan.com seems to be targeted at post-90s generation teens, did you come up with this idea to target teens or did it happen by coincidence?
Most people talk about Facebook clones: Xiaonei.com, Kaixin001.com, where you know the people in real life, and they are places to reflect online your offline friends. Fake-name sites include QQ, MySpace.cn － 360quan.com passed MySpace.cn two months ago － and also 51.com. Fake-name sites means picking a new name for self expression, and creating a new persona online. There's a strong, pent-up demand for self-expression in China, but there’s not much of a chance for self-expression when you’re a 16- or 19 year-old kid living in the same room as your parents. Maybe you go to the Internet cafe with your friends, but there really are no places to break out and really realize your dreams wackier, crazier dreams except online. So that's why online gaming, QQ and fake-name SNS are all so popular in China.
Danwei: Is 360quan.com unique?
We position ourselves as the post-90s generation, very hip trendy and new, and we have strong branding on this by finding cool kids on the website -- kids who play parkour, graffiti artists, punks -- and promoting them. That’s our branding, but by definition cool people can never be the majority of our users, because cool people are only a small percentage of any social group. The people who use our website are the same people who use other large websites in China. What each website does is to feature and promote a group of people who are most interesting for them to associate with their brand.
Danwei: Do you regard Xiaonei.com, Kaixin001.com and Douban.com as your rivals?
We’re number three in our space of fake name SNS, number 5 or 6 overall in the SNS space. We’re the smallest of the first tier SNS sites, and biggest of the second tier.
Danwei: When did you come here and why?
360quan was started with [current COO] Chen Qi and around 15 and 20 people, based around interest groups. A decade ago, everyone you knew in China was a colleague, a schoolfriend or someone born in the same place as you. In America you would have interest groups that form horizontal bonds in society but in China that was very rare then. But in the last 5-10 years Chinese society has changed dramatically in this regard. Now there’s tons of horizontal interest groups that get together and go skiing, dancing, backpacking, etc.
Our website attracted young kids who are a little bit different and looking for more self-expression, during 2007-2008. I joined in December 2008 to take over as CEO. We’re now close to 100 people, and we’re ready to move it to the next level.
Danwei: Any thoughts on why we don't have a lot of people in common who use it? Is there a reason why I use Douban.com instead?
Compared to the huge massive websites, we’re this tiny, niche very cutting edge site. But compared to the uber-cool, really cutting edge vanguard sites, we’re absolutely huge (because most of those are really tiny, like 500 readers a day on a tiny personal blog). So our readers bring the cool content to our website, and we try promote it to our users to try and “lead” them in a cooler direction..
Danwei: Does it work as a business?
Danwei: How many people does it take to upkeep 360quan.com? And where are you going with the website?
Danwei: Can you explain the "clan" (
There is a game called "Secrets" (秘密心里话), and you can comment on other people’s secrets, whether it's to "give them good wishes" (祝福) or tell them to go to hell (去死). The number of people telling them to go to hell is much much lower than wishing them good wishes. Most of the secrets have to do with either sex or emotions. This is kind of scary, but a lot of fun, and kind of addictive in a weird way. They’re not very aggressive actually: most of our "clans" are pretty positive. We give them tools to fight each other, but they don’t really use them so much. But if we give them tools to compete, then they do quite enthusiastically by promoting themselves.
At the base of it, there’s an older generation's reaction to the younger generation (“Kids these days!”): but aside from that there’s also an acceleration in social change in China after the reform and opening. Since 2000 Chinese society is totally different than the 90s, but I don’t think the new generation is lacking responsibility or can't hold onto a job. I think there are macro-level problems like not enough jobs, because they increased intake in schools, but I don’t think this generation is any worse than the ones previous.
So you have lots of kids who say, “Why should I go to university?” They still haven't realized that having a college degree is significant, but how is that different from the US? The differences in the '50s and the '70s when their parents were growing up, is a society that has just experienced a revolution within that generation, so for the first ten, twenty years they say, "build the nation, we should be strong." But things are different now. For instance there are not many places in China now where you can’t eat and people starve to death. Things are changing faster and faster in China, and it’s just easier to see online.
Links and Sources
Jobs in China
Henry on The Eurasian Face
Caroline W on Big in China
Michael on Julia Lovell on translating Lu Xun's complete fiction: "His is an angry, searing vision of China"
Brandon K. on Clueless academic takes on popular fantasy novels
China Media Timeline
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Danwei Model Workers
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Books on China
The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
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+ Religion and government in an uneasy mix (2008.03): Phoenix Weekly (凤凰周刊) article from October, 2007, on government influence on religious practice in Tibet.
+ David Moser on Mao impersonators (2004.10): I first became aware of this phenomenon in 1992 when I turned on a Beijing TV variety show and was jolted by the sight of "Mao Zedong" and "Zhou Enlai" playing a game of ping pong. They both gave short, rousing speeches, and then were reverently interviewed by the emcee, who thanked them profusely for taking time off from their governmental duties to appear on the show.