David Wolf
Apr 29, 2010

Why wait for Tudou to capture China's online viewers?

David Wolf, CEO of Wolf Group Asia, tells the industry to stop waiting for Tudou and Youku to reach Chinese netizens and show them the way instead.

Why wait for Tudou to capture China's online viewers?

At a discussion launching the Tudou Online Film Festival last Friday, moderator Christine Lu asked me how I described Tudou to people from outside of China. I told her the biggest mistake most (non-Chinese) people made was to go to the site, give it a quick look-see, and conclude: “Tudou is a Chinese YouTube clone, but with lots of pirated content.”

Setting aside the ‘clone’ appellation (my response: “so what?”) and the pirated content accusation (Tudou and rival Youku are in the midst of a campaign to license copyrighted content on the site), the biggest mistake in such an assessment is that it ignores the different role Tudou plays in China’s entertainment universe.

Chinese cable television is trapped somewhere in the late 1970s, with fewer than 50 channels,and little in the way of quality niche channels like Discovery, MTV, HBO and TNT (or their local equivalents) . Pay-per-view services have failed to find a major following. Piracy has decimated what might have been a robust video sales and rental industry. Video entertainment in China, in other words, has been a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ proposition.

Online video has, as a result, been something of an epiphany to your average Chinese person: tens of thousands of programmes all available to choose right at your fingertips. When the interactive urge wanes, the online video usage rises.

And it happens to everyone: Tudou CEO Gary Wang noted that even avid gamers, when tired, start watching videos of other people playing the games they love.

To marketers, this means two things.

First, because online video plays a wider role in the lives of Chinese netizens than it does in the lives of netizens in the US, online video should receive a higher proportion of our time, creativity and spend than it does elsewhere.

Second - and following logically from the first - we must start shifting a chunk of our vaunted creativity to figuring out how to make good use of this highly personalised mass medium.

It is fashionable to thrash the online video sites for not figuring out how to ‘monetise’ their audience. In truth, what is even
more disgraceful is our failure, as marketers, to turn online video in China into a revolutionary way to reach an audience abandoning our core media.

Let’s stop waiting for Tudou and Youku to figure it out. Let’s show them the way.

Got a view?
Email [email protected]

This article was originally published in the 22 April 2010 issue of Media.

Campaign China

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