For the past 4 years, Douban has grown from a small site of book reviews into one of the largest social networking sites for highly educated, culturally inclined Chinese netizens. Started by Ah Bei in Beijing, Douban is totally reliant on users to upload information on books they’ve read, movies they’ve watched and music they’ve listened to. Using data mining technology, Douban is able to organize all the content and reviews for easy access and perhaps more importantly, recommend members new content and like-minded users.
While Douban is considered a fairly large website in China, its user demographics are still relatively targeted. 90% of the users are white-collar workers or college students, 70% come from first-tier cities and 80% are aged between 21-36.
One of the major ways that users of Douban interact is through the “groups” functionality. Users have created more than 150,000 interest groups, discussing anything from food to music to travel. Another extremely popular channel is the events listings where users can upload, review and manage events.
Along with submitting reviews and events, individual users each have a page they can manage which displays all the books they’ve read, music they enjoy, groups they belong to and connections they may have through shared content or people within Douban.
One of the relatively recent additions to Douban is the artist page for musicians, which has been used a lot by indie musicians in China. Bands can upload music, pictures, and interact with fans through discussion groups. In an interview with Danwei, the founder, Ah Bei, explains how the musician channel works:
“Actually one of the guitarists for PK14 works here as the music editor. We have more than two million books and music. They need to review everything, including the cover image. But it’s not just writing or editing. They also need to review the bands to make sure it’s not a fake band. The reason there is a platform for independent music on Douban is because they have nowhere else to go. People who like Jay Chou (周杰伦) or Chris Lee (李宇春) have so many places to go. They are big pop stars who have big audiences, and can go to any major website. They don’t need to come to Douban, but independent artists have very little places to go. On Douban, its users upload musicians’ pages very quickly and frequently, and this frequency means that more independent music stays at Douban.”
More creative or edgy brands such as Converse, 42below and Swatch will advertise on Douban and set up mini-sites to attract the attention of Douban users.