1998 is seen as the start of China’s internet portals, when three of the country’s four giants were started: Tencent, Sohu, and Sina. (The other one, NetEase, was started one year earlier in 1997).
Sina was started by Wang Zhidong, who led the merger of a software company and an international news site. That combination formed the original Sina web portal.
In 2005 it launched Sina Blog, which became one of the country’s most popular content platforms. By recruiting celebrities to join the platform, it became one of the few ways average internet users could interact with them and express their own opinions publicly -- in an age before social media. Two of the most popular celebrities on the platform, writer Han Han and actress Xu Jinglei, both amassed more than 100 million views on Sina Blog in 2007. Two years later in 2009, China had 384 million internet users, and 182 million of them were users of blogging platforms.
But Sina Blog’s popularity faded as new social media platforms grew -- including WeChat, and Sina’s own Weibo. Started in 2009, the Twitter-like Weibo is now one of the country’s most popular social media platforms, boasting over 430 million active users, and it’s also still the bulk of Sina.
Sina today still has a growing business, but is falling short of its former rivals. Its market cap is about one third of NetEase’s, and while NetEase has expanded to games and online shopping, Sina is largely an online media platform that depends heavily on online advertising.
86 percent of its revenue comes from ads, based on its latest filing, and 82 percent of its ad revenue comes from Weibo. The rest of it still comes from its portal site and news apps.
But that shows how the company is positioning itself: Providing news and information with “new media platforms”, as the CEO said to celebrate the company’s 20th anniversary.
Still, that might not be a sure thing. Sina is facing increasing competition now, as the rising Bytedance fights for screen time with popular news aggregator Toutiao and viral short video app Douyin (TikTok in the West).