Two China-based bloggers have found the secret to generating more page views: sex sells, and Google helps readers find it.
"Sex," said EastSouthWestNorth blogger Roland Soong, in response to a self-posited question about what brought the most readers to his blog. Hong Kong-born Soong translates articles from the Chinese media into English, often giving Western media their first look at events and trends in China.
Soong believes that two sex-related stories put him on the blogging map: one about Chinese blogger Mu Zimei, whose blog has described her sexual activities in detail, and one about the Hong Kong trial of two men who ran an online prostitution guide and the law under which they were prosecuted.
Soong, speaking at a panel discussion in Beijing on Monday, said he does not accept advertising on his Web site to maintain his objectivity, and receives 15,000 to 20,000 readers per day.
Jeremy Goldkorn, a native of South Africa and founder of Danwei.org, said that while his blog, which also covers the Chinese media in English, began in the spring of 2003, it wasn't until he too wrote about sexual matters that his audience started growing. "It started to get some traction when I began writing about transsexuals" in 2003 and 2004, he said. The Chinese media latched onto a series of gender-bending stories, including one about a beauty contest that rejected a transsexual applicant.
Danwei receives seven to 11,000 unique visitors per day, Goldkorn said, with 20 percent to 30 percent of those as "regular readers." About half the readers come via Google's search engine, he said.
In Chinese a "danwei" is a work unit, and is primarily a term left over from the communist era when people were assigned a place of employment where they were also housed and fed.
Both Soong and Goldkorn decried the work of, and reaction to, a Shanghai-based blogger known as Chinabounder, whose writing about his sexual escapades led one Chinese academic to call for an online "manhunt" to find and expel the author from China.
Despite the Chinese government blocking major sites including Blogger.com until last month, neither Soong nor Goldkorn expressed any fear about being pinned in the government's spotlight. "I don't think what I do is of any interest to the Chinese government," Goldkorn said. Soong said that because he and his blog are based in Hong Kong, and because the blog is in English, it attracts little official interest. He he has never been contacted by any government arm as a result of the blog, he said.
The pair also felt their work complemented instead of replaced traditional journalism, although both were obviously pleased when mainstream media used their blogs as sources for stories. "I don't think blogs are going to replace the media by any means," Goldkorn said.