7 years in, Chinese social review site Douban is close to turning a profit

7 years in, Chinese social review site Douban is close to turning a profit

Douban, a Chinese social networking service for book, movie and music reviews and recommendations, has revealed that it now plays host to 100 million unique visitors a month and will be nearly profitable this year with expected annual revenue of $12.57 million (RMB80 million), QQ Tech reports.

The site, which was founded in 2005, has taken a self-described “slow company” approach, a rarity in today’s climate. In spite of its efforts, or perhaps because, its growth rate is picking up. Daily hits have almost doubled year over year to 160 million and the site currently boasts 62 million users.

Though the company has gotten credit for being China’s “truly original social network,” as described by TechRice, its originality has not been immediately followed by profits. It has also run into some trouble with government censors for the outspoken and sometimes rebellious community that has formed on the site.

Douban’s core business is its review platform and the accompanying social network. The company also operates Internet radio stations and has branched out into daily deals and ecommerce.

It brought in $2 million in its first batch of fundraising in 2006 and several millions more in 2009. Last September, the company raised $50 million in a Series C funding round from Sequoia, Bertelsmann Asia Investments and Trustbridge Partners.

Douban isn’t the only well-established social networking site that is struggling to make money. Sina Weibo, for instance, has become hugely popular but is itself struggling with monetization. Sina CEO Charles Chao said during a recent earnings call that a significant redesign is in the works that could better drive revenues.

Given the vast number of users available in the market, many Chinese Internet companies have opted to worry about their user base and profits later. The strategy has worked for companies like Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba, but there are undoubtedly more failures than successes.

Image via Flickr / CarbonNYC

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