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Twittering for attention

(Global Times)

08:48, April 10, 2013

It has become a habit for Yuan Yue to spend an hour or so daily on Weibo, checking up on updates by friends and posts from her favorite accounts. Studying journalism at a foreign studies university in Beijing, Yuan follows a bunch of accounts run by foreign news organizations, which are gaining momentum on Weibo by putting up their stories and interacting with Chinese audiences.

Web of intrigue

One of Yuan's favorite foreign media accounts, the Chinese website of Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, became very popular after they started posting a daily entry in June last year called "oyasumi", meaning "good night" in English. The posts traditionally used a few Chinese characters as a humorous or sarcastic hint at a news story. Many Chinese Web users began taking part in this nightly riddle.

"It turns out these two things are what the Chinese are most unhappy about," read one good night post on March 2, with a picture featuring two Chinese characters - ru fang, meaning women's breasts when put together but milk and houses when read separately. The post implied restrictions placed on Chinese mainland customers purchasing milk powder in Hong Kong, while also riffing on a State Council announcement that homeowners would face a tax bill of up to 20 percent on profits from house sales.

The post was forwarded more than 27,800 times, with many commenting that the two characters stroke the right chord with the anxious Chinese public.

"I like this creative way of story-telling, as well as their funny and friendly tone," Yuan told the Global Times. The good night posts cover a wide range of topics - food safety, pollution, government scandals, anti-Japanese protests, and whatever triggers widespread Weibo discussion. The account has attracted more than 340,000 followers so far.

Starting their microblog in February 2011, Asahi Shimbun first used the Weibo platform to popularize their biweekly online Chinese magazine Fresh Japan.

The newspaper established an official Chinese website in April 2012, with its editorial team based in Tokyo, and organized a team of five, including two Chinese employees, to manage a Weibo account. Besides posting their own stories, they re-post and comment on reports from Chinese media, and approach Web users in a more intimate way by making jokes or even mocking their own Japanese origins.

"Our goal is to deliver information that readers can relate to, since it is meaningless if a good report doesn't draw any readers," Tsuyoshi Nojima, editor-in-chief with Asahi Shimbun's Chinese website who also leads the Weibo team, told the Global Times. The website tries to gain popularity and being less aloof is a good way to win hearts, he explained.

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