China's youngsters have something other than Gossip Girls and Hannah Montana to choose from when they want to glimpse into their fellow teens' lives.
Sofia's Diary, a 40-episode online and interactive show, has had more than 20 million hits since its debut at the end of last year.
It follows the life of Sofia, an 18-year-old Beijing student, at her Shanghai campus.
A five-minute episode runs every day from Monday to Friday on popular websites like sina.com, the video-sharing site youku.com as well as the nationwide university broadband network, cernet.com.
Every Friday Sofia faces a dilemma and the following week's storyline depends on the results of an online poll.
Viewers can also interact with comments and blogs.
The show is also broadcast on television in some airports and buses and on cell phones.
The second season is due to open this fall.
The show has been produced by Huaso Film/TV Digital Production Company Ltd, a joint venture of Sony Pictures Television International and China Film Group Corporation.
"There are not many local TV shows or films specially made for young Chinese men," says Pu Xiaoyan, the company's general manager. "Sofia is designed for those born after 1980 in China, in both content and format."
Pu says one of the crucial decisions was to hire scriptwriter Ding Ding, who is post-1980 herself and had previously published several books on teenage life.
The production team is also young - Canadian-Chinese director Jonathan Lim is the only 30-something.
The format was created by Portuguese studio BeActive in 2003 and has been adapted for netizens in the United States, Germany, Turkey, Brazil, Chile, Vietnam and United Kingdom.
The format has made a breakthrough in how to make money out of interactive TV. The show collaborates with advertisers to integrate branding - for example, Sofia uses a pink Sony Vaio computer, Clinique for her acne and job-hunting website 51job.com.
The brand placement, Pu says, is not simply to place the product in the settings, but to weave it with the storyline.
For example, Sofia developed acne under the pressure of being in a new city. She asked for help and her stepmother, a beauty editor, recommended Clinique to her. Her friend Beibei, meanwhile, got an internship at a fashion magazine after attending a workshop organized by 51job.
Pu is not worried about being copied by other program makers.
"I would be happy to see more interactive online shows - we still have the advantage of being the first," she says.
"Anyway, the popularity means more chances to develop franchised products, which we will probably do when Sofia becomes a real superstar on the Internet." -- China Daily/ Asia News Network