New me­dia

High-pro­file users have more im­pact than me­dia, govt: poll

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By XU WEI xuwei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The rise of new me­dia re­duces the in­flu­ence of tra­di­tional me­dia, and China’s new me­dia con­tinue to be dom­i­nated by opin­ion lead­ers, a sur­vey shows.

China’s new me­dia con­tin­ues to be dom­i­nated by high­pro­file users in 2013 de­spite the coun­try’s cam­paign against online ru­mors, a re­port by a gov­ern­ment think tank has shown.

About 300 high- pro­file mi­cro- blog­gers play a part in set­ting topics on the In­ter­net, es­pe­cially in emer­gency ac­ci­dents and pub­lic is­sues, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased by the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences on Thurs­day.

Their in­flu­ence tends to ex­ceed that of gov­ern­ment mi­cro blogs and tra­di­tional me­dia, ac­cord­ing to the re­port in the Blue Book of China’s So­ci­ety: So­ci­ety of China Anal­y­sis and Fore­cast (2014).

“Our re­port found that at least one-third of high-pro­file users play cru­cial roles in the launch of some online cam­paigns, and another one-third play a part in it,” said Shan Xue­gang, deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the pub­lic opin­ion anal­y­sis of­fice of peo­ple.com.cn.

Shan gave the ex­am­ple of a cam­paign to res­cue street chil­dren and ab­ducted chil­dren on the Sina Weibo mi­cro- blog­ging ser­vice, a Twit­ter-like plat­form in China. The cam­paign was pro­moted by a num­ber of high- pro­file users in­clud­ing ac­tors Yao Chen and Zhao Wei and so­cial critic Li Cheng­peng. Each online celebrity has more than 10 mil­lion fol­low­ers on their mi­cro blog.

The high-pro­file users also mag­nify grass­roots voices through their re­posts and thus can pose chal­lenges to tra­di­tional me­dia.

“Nor­mally a mi­cro-blog­ger would only have friends as their fol­low­ers and their mes­sage could only be spread in­side a cir­cle. How­ever, if the mes­sage is re­posted by a high­pro­file user, it could be seen by thou­sands,” Shan said.

How­ever, the trans­mis­sion power is also apt to be mis­used as some would re­post mes­sages with­out ver­i­fy­ing their ac­cu­racy and thus help spread ru­mors, he said.

“Some re­posts from the high-pro­file users con­cern topics that they are not fa­mil­iar with, and some are with­out any ver­i­fi­ca­tion,” he said.

China launched the cam­paign against online ru­mors af­ter the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court and the Supreme Peo­ple’s Procu­ra­torate is­sued a guide­line in Au­gust defin­ing the cri­te­ria for con­vict­ing and sen­tenc­ing of­fend­ers who spread ru­mors online.

Sev­eral high-pro­file users, in­clud­ing Dong Liangjie, a self-pro­claimed en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion ac­tivist, have been de­tained for spread­ing ru­mors.

The cam­paign has been in­flu­en­tial, with the ac­count ac­tiv­ity of some high-pro­file users de­creased, Shan said.

Zhan Jiang, a com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sor at Bei­jing For­eign Stud­ies Univer­sity, said the In­ter­net will con­tinue to pose chal­lenges to tra­di­tional me­dia, such as news­pa­pers and TV sta­tions.

Shan said the re­search in­sti­tute has also mon­i­tored a de­crease in the ac­tiv­ity of mi­cro blog users, mainly due to chal­lenges from other new me­dia pat­terns such as WeChat, a pop­u­lar voice-mes­sag­ing app.

“The de­cline is nor­mal, be­cause all In­ter­net plat­forms must face the chal­lenge of users get­ting bored af­ter three to four years,” he said.

China has more than 331 mil­lion mi­cro- blog­gers, of which 190,000 have more than 100,000 fol­low­ers and 3,300 have more than 1 mil­lion fol­low­ers.

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