A few weeks a go Baidu launched a new simplified portal service targeted at the Chinese elderly: 123.Baidu.com. It’s basically an old school link-list like Yahoo! started out back in the days. The site reminds me of another link-list, Hao123, a popular site that was acquired by Baidu back in 2004.

123.Baidu.com and Yahoo! back in 1996

123.Baidu.com and Yahoo! back in 1996

Link-lists that are considered rather old-school in the U.S. or Europe are quite popular in China for several reasons. As many netizens – especially those above 40 – are not acquainted with Pinyin, let alone with the Pinyin input system on a computer, they prefer to only use their mouse and click rather than use a keyboard. Moreover even for the Pinyin literate netizens clicking is still the easiest way to navigate on the web as blind typing is not possible with Pinyin input systems where characters have to be chosen from a list. 

Targeted Content

There are a few differences between 123.Baidu.com and Hao123. To begin with the font size is bigger and in an effort to make the site even more readable and clear there are no distracting ads. The main difference though is the content, 123.Baidu.com provides many interesting links to web services aimed at the elderly:

  • Oldkids.cn: A vertical aimed at older people. Relevant shopping and social services. Also offers brain training games and entertainment related services.
  • Oldman.39.net: Covers many wellbeing tips and health issues related to aging.
  • Aigou.com: A website/SNS aimed at dog owners (lovers), offering information, entertainment and social services to share experiences.
  • CCTV Xiyanghong: Chinese drama series videos and information.

The most interesting link is the ‘Input methods downloads’ link, which refers to several kinds of input services:

  • Sogou’s and more entertainment related Pinyin input software.
  • Thunisoft’s more professional and clean Pinyin input software.
  • An input service by jpwb.com that is based on strokes (no Pinyin!).
Sogou Pinyin Input

Sogou Pinyin Input

Older Netizens

Although the user base in China is very young (67.1% is below 30), with the scale of the Chinese market one must not forget the elderly as they represent an increasingly large and highly potential group to target.

The 23rd CNNIC  Survey Report states (p.19):

“The proportion of netizens aged 40 and above in 2008 was slightly higher than that of 2007. In recent years, the proportion of netizens of advanced ages has kept rising and the growth rate has surpassed that of overall netizens, which shows the optimizing tendency of the demographic structure of Chinese netizens in terms of age.”

It seems that besides targeting younger netizens by investing in MMORPGs (Baidu recently signed a partnership with Kylin, the developer of MMORPG ‘Genghis Khan’) and setting up a gaming platform back in 2008, Baidu is now also targeting and educating older (or Pinyin illiterate) netizens. Through a service as 123.Baidu.com it is trying to introduce the elderly to relevant services and educate them about input methods more advanced than just clicking.