Online news in China is stagnant. Portals are restricted to running government approved stories from official sources, while strict government controls make pushing the envelope difficult and risky.
This runs counter to the desires of an increasingly discerning audience, in particular the post 80s generation (ages 24 to 33), which is more curious, independent-minded, and certainly more critical of what they read on the news.
NetEase (an independent on-line news provider) wanted to engage this outspoken group, while also remaining within the bounds of the country's strict media controls. Doing so would allow it to steal readership from the dominant government-owned news outlets and large Web portals which also send news feeds to their users.
In the resulting “Your Thinking DNA” campaign, NetEase boldly positioned itself not merely as another reporter of news, but as a champion of people’s views, where visitors can find a wide variety of viewpoints and express their own opinions.
The campaign, which dared Chinese readers to “think more” and “don’t follow blindly,” helped position NetEase as a much-needed, fresh alternative for online news.
By the end of the campaign, NetEase portal’s monthly readership share had grown by 10% (largely at the expense of state-owned portals which shrank -7%), whereas NetEase’s news app surged 136% to become #1 in the marketplace. On the back of these gains, ad revenues surged ten-fold to help drive total income by +29% (the highest growth in the industry).