Sina Weibo launches paid service

Sina Weibo, one of China's most popular micro-blogging sites, has launched a paid premium service.

For a 10 yuan (S$2) monthly fee, users get a membership badge to flaunt on their Sina Weibo profiles. VIP users also enjoy other perks such as personalized pages and voice blog posts.

According to Xu Yuanyuan, a member of the marketing team at Sina, the move is to guarantee a more convenient and safer environment for users.

But despite the company's efforts to increase revenue, it seems that most of its 300 million users still prefer the free version.

The premium membership plans, announced by the company on Monday, generated negative comments from its users.

"The current service is good enough for me," said a Beijing-based micro-blogger who goes by the name Yuan Ye. "I don't really need those value-added services and it might be a waste of money. I might consider paying for it if some more features are added."

Dong Xu, an analyst with consulting firm Analysys International, said that Sina shouldn't expect a substantial increase in revenue brought by the new services.

"The free services are enough for most users," Dong said. "The company has been making attempts at different profit models since last year," she said.

Sina Weibo currently operates more than 100,000 corporate accounts, with the number expected to increase to a million by the end of the year, according to Sina's CEO Cao Guowei.

A potential source of revenue could be gaming, Dong said.

"Games and advertisements are so far the two biggest sources of revenue," she said.

Other micro-blogging service providers have not yet followed suit.

Fang Gang, vice-president of rival Sohu, said via e-mail on Tuesday that Sohu's micro-blogging service will never charge users.

"It's good news for us. Users can come to our website if they have to pay for services (at Sina)," Fang said.

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