Up With Vertical Business & Finance Websites, Down With Comprehensive Portals

摘要: Today, traditional traffic distribution platforms such as news portals, Baidu, QQ, WeChat, Weibo and TouTiao are all giving up their rights to we media. The inconvenient truth is that news portals no longer have the final say here in China.

(Chinese Version)

The heyday of comprehensive business & finance portals has passed, as is signified in the resign of Chen Tong, chief-editor of Sina.com. In addition, Sohu has been crying to get privatized recently since it used to be underrated for a long time. For sure, Sohu Business & Business channel must also been in a hard time right now. Hexun.com, so-called the number one business & finance portal in China, announced that it would enter the Internet finance sector by establishing a separate Internet finance channel in 2013. Eastmoney.com, the first business & finance portal to list on the stock market, has also been transforming itself and adapting itself to the finance sector. It has even changed its slogan into “Dedicated to establishing an all-in-one finance service platform and the biggest security company in China”. Chinese business & finance portals are not so much adapting themselves to the Internet finance era as hitting a ceiling and having no other choices.

On the other side of the coin, however, Chinese vertical business & finance websites are burgeoning. For example, Wallstreetcn.com, the first real-time in its kind here in China, is said to have over 1 to 2 million unique visits every month. Jin10.com, dedicated to updating global business and finance news in real time and even faster than traditional news agencies, also enjoys a monthly unique visit times of 4 to 5 million. Xueqiu.com, a social network and information portal for investors in China founded by former executive vice chief editor of NetEase Fang Sanwen, recently has completed the C-round financing and keeps a steady number of daily active users of 700,000 to 1,000,000.

What’s wrong?

The unstoppable trend

First of all, let's make clear what kind of websites can be call “vertical business & finance websites”. On the one hand, it has to target a certain crowd of readers (for example, Jin10.com’s target readers are mainly traders and people who are in dire need of real-time in-depth news); on the other hand, it has to be focused on news a single industry (for example, fx678.com is solely a foreign exchange platform). Several sectors might help explain why vertical business & finance websites are on the rise, such as the rising demand for the quality and quantity of news. Yet, it also has to do with the following three trends:

1. The missing advantage

It is an undisputable fact that the traffic on the four major Chinese news portals stays constant for a long time or is rather declining right now. Time has passed when Chinese would log onto news portals to search for information. As the number of unique visits on smartphones has surpassed that on PCs, the download times of several news apps has hit over 100 million and the news portals are attaching increasing importance to mobile terminals, they are gradually losing their advantage on PCs.

On the one hand, search engines such as Baidu and 360sosou.com are grabbing business & finance portals’ traffic. If users can’t find your contents (whether from portals or vertical websites) when searching related keywords or couldn’t see your content until pages later, then it is unlikely you website will be visited by users often.

On the other hand, social media are challenging the role of traditional business & finance portals. Today, news don’t necessarily need to be chosen by editors. Instead, news can also be spread by VIP Weibo accounts, SNS, WeChat friends circle and WeChat group. As a matter of fact, many portals have already given up traditional portal layout formats and simply list news in time order.

2. The growing importance of we media

In an era of we media, if traditional business & finance portals refused to recommend their articles, they can just turn to other platforms such as Jiemian.com and popular WeChat Official Accounts in business & finance sector.

Today, traditional traffic distribution platforms such as news portals, Baidu, QQ, WeChat, Weibo and TouTiao are all giving up their rights to we media. The inconvenient truth is that news portals no longer have the final say here in China. This is also true for business & finance portals. For example, it was Jin10.com that first revealed that the weight of the RMB in the SDR basket was to rise to 10.92%, not business & finance portals. When business & finance insiders and the public no longer turned to Sohu Business or Hexun Finance for latest information in the industry, they were left with few choices: whether to adapt to the trend, or to be abandoned by content producers.

3. The loophole

In addition, with the explosive growth of information, business & finance portals are becoming increasingly fragmented, making it hard for readers to search for information they want. That’s why many people just turned to more “vertical” websites for help. Moreover, as the channels people get access to business and finance news are getting increasingly diversified, news websites are almost forced to go deeper and become more focused.

It follows that these vertical business & finance websites began to rise and gather a good amount of professional and loyal readers. They are gathered together through news of a specific area and gradually formed an efficient, high-end reader base.

Since these vertical are highly focused, their readers are also very loyal to them. Sometimes, it’s better to have 1,000 die-hard fans than 100,000 random readers. For example, although Xueqiu.com was only a social network and information portal for investors in China, it gradually accumulated a very loyal reader base with its vertical and focused contents, which made it easy for the website to make profit out of its reader base. Likewise, although Jin10.com was dedicated to updating global business and finance news in real time, it successfully maintained a high reader retention rate with its highly-focused and timely contents.

In this sense, business & finance portals have been replaced by vertical websites, as in the Yangtze River the waves behind will drive on those ahead. Although they might not look as powerful as portals, this trend has already become unstoppable.

Four challenging decisions to make

However, I’m not saying there won’t be ups and downs, since it’s the nature of Internet media to reduce the everyday information asymmetry. Besides, they will have to resist all kinds of temptation to survive the test of time.

1. Social networking, or content?

Business & finance media are already less popular compared to BAT, yet vertical websites are even less popular. That’s why they are constantly left in a dilemma: whether social networking or content is more important? As a matter of fact, Chinese vertical business & finance websites can be divided into two categories: those that pay more attention to social networking and those that attach higher importance to content. The former types of websites classify their readers based on the contents they read to maintain a steady user account system, and Xueqiu.com is a typical example. The latter types help users find contents they might be interested through circles and pay more attention to content accumulation and transfer, and some typical examples include Jin10.com and fx678.com.

At present, there are few pure business & finance website, while most websites will include a user account management system and some random interaction. Nobody can tell for sure which aspect is more important, yet it is crucial to first understand what social networking is: the nature of social networking is to circulate information, in other words, it is the combination of spreading information and collecting feedbacks. Purely spreading information is more like advertising, while purely collecting feedbacks is similar to customer service.

So here comes the question: can functions such as “Like” and “Repost” on vertical business & finance be counted as social networking elements? Of course not, because they doesn’t meet a crucial principle: social networking has be the interaction between people and people, while “Like” and “Repost” is simply an interaction between readers and the platform.

However, whether a vertical business & finance website focuses more on content or social networking, what’s really important is to achieve a high traffic. When we take a look at the frequency of the major vertical websites are searched on Baidu, we might find that those that pay more attention to content such as Jin10.com, Wallstreetcn.com, and fx678.com do enjoy a significantly high traffic periodically. Eastmoney.com first focused more attention on content, but later go great length to promote “Stock Chatroom”. However, it recently changed its focus again and turned to Internet finance. To wrap up, neither content nor social networking is the life-saving draw.

2. PGC, UGC or OGC?

Focus, accuracy and reader base are the three most important elements of vertical business & finance websites, the second medium format after news portals. In this sense, information library and interaction & feedbacks must be the lifeline of them.

As a matter of fact, information library can be simply compared to content, yet what we need to make clear is who the creator of a content is. That’s how these websites can be divided based on which model they adopted, whether it’s PGC, UGC or OGC? Xueqiu.com is a typical UGC-based website and there is a typical sector called “Today’s Topic”, where readers can vote for today’s topic. Jin10.com, however, adopted the OGC model, so that its editors are supposed to provide real-time data and start a topic objectively. Wallstreet.cn.com adopted the PGC model when it invited experts to share their opinions on major business & finance news. Nobody can tell which model is better, yet I have to point out that what’s really important is if a content, whether created by PGC, UGC or OGC model, is attractive enough and can be widely circulated.

Therefore, my advice is that one should never put many eggs in one basket and adopt solely one model. Instead, only when they strike a good balance among PGC, UGC and OGC model can they succeed at last.

Anyhow, an adequate amount of high-quality content will ultimately help the website keep a steady reader base. The more high-quality content, the more popular the website will also become.

3. Quality or quantity?

To develop rapidly and attract as many readers as possible, or to focus on the quality and develop step by step, this must be possibly a common dilemma many entrepreneurs and website owners might face one day. However, the user base of vertical business & finance websites is limited in nature, so when some websites are too ambitious and spend lavishly attracting new users, they will ultimately lift a rock only to drop it on one's own feet. Yet, I also see examples when some websites adopt the latter development model and missed the golden chance to develop further.

To wrap up, There is no guarantee that a website of a large reader base will stand out, while the development model that suits oneself best is the model one should adopt. For example, Jin10.com stands out because it does an excellent job in winning the traders with its real-time information.

4. Money, or objectiveness?

What about the profit model, then? If a vertical business & finance website sticks to its role as a media, it needs to be absolutely objective when spreading news, knowledge and information, posting advertisements, conducting marketing activities, encouraging public discussion and entertaining the public. If it focuses more on money, then it will have to be loyal to its boss and serve the needs of them.

Vertical business & finance websites are known to be very close to money. If one chooses the wrong side, it will certainly be doomed to failure one day. After all, they are media websites, and must live up to the trust of the public. Yet, in the face of money and temptation, how can we count them to stick to their fundamental responsibility? If they do resist the temptation, are there any way else for them to make profit?

In conclusion, vertical business & finance websites will also have to face the obstacles traditional portals have encountered. How should such websites make full use of their advantages? How should they strike a good balance between different development models? The subject should be uttermost in the thoughts, and canvassed often...

 

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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @Zeng Xiangling, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]

Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.

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