It’s not exactly a state secret that Tencent has dominated the Chinese social media scene over the past few years. Now though, that market is becoming saturated and the company is looking beyond the Great Firewall for the next phase of growth.
Speaking to Paidcontent, the company’s GM for national ad planning Sophia Ong admitted that it was starting see slower growth in the Chinese online market. “Since this year, we’re starting to sense the signs of a slowing down,” she said.
In a bid to ride through this slowing growth, Tencent has been exploring other revenue opportunities, including live ad-supported videos from the recent London Olympics. But it’s also looking expand into other emerging markets.
Perhaps the most well-known example of this is the stake it has in Russia’s Digital Sky Technologies (which incidentally gives it a stake in Facebook), but it’s also invested in Thai web company Sanook.
The company’s not afraid of diversity either, although it does seem to view gaming as a big potential money spinner. It maintains a minority stake in Epic Games, the studio behind titles including Gears of War and Infinity Blade, for instance. Its own mobile gaming platform Mobile QQ Game Hall meanwhile hit the 200-million user mark earlier this year.
Ong sees this diversity as something that will serve the company well in the future:
“We face some of the pressures but we are confident of our growth,” she told Paidcontent. “We are not only investing ourselves in one certain category — we are multi-platform, multi-dimensional — so we are relatively safe.”
“We have a connecting synergy for all of the platforms — to leverage the power of the huge user base to deliver resource and original content online to users,” she added.
The interview also provided a rare glimpse at how Tencent views its arch rival in the Chinese social space Sina. Although Tencent’s Weibo (microblogging service) has more users than Sina’s, the latter tends to get more attention — possibly because its users are more active.
Thing is, Tencent isn’t as concerned with leveraging its Weibo as a money-spinning platform either, saying it isn’t its first priority. According to Ong, there are also two different philosophies at play:
“Sina’s strategy is mostly the media type of operation, everything from the top down. They recruit lots of celebrities and key opinion leaders to spread their messages (on Weibo)”.