Two years ago we started asking, Are Chinese still checking-in? (I can’t believe it’s been two years.)  Those hyped check-in apps, unsurprisingly, disappeared one by one. It was believed then that location check-in would be a must-have feature with almost all social services and the standalone couldn’t work out. Jiepang, to my surprise, has been holding on.

With 5 million registered accounts, no more than 500 thousand monthly active users, Jiepang managed to break even in two months last year by doing location-based campaigns or branded photo filters for brands such as Startbucks.

As a major update, Jiepang 5.0 isn’t the China’s foursqure wannabe anymore (happy to see. And foursqure itself isn’t well-positioned that user growth and monetization are concerns, like always ). It’s still a check-in service, with virtual check-in being added. Now there are 16 tags of scenarios, say, singing karaoke, for users to check into. By tapping on a tag, you can see all the check-ins, with photos or messages, by your friends in this category (see the image below). Virtual check-in is not new either, but I cannot think of any Chinese app that is doing so in this way.

You can add the tag, Eating, to a photo of a dish and check all the photos tagged so.

You can add the tag, Eating, to a photo of a dish and check all the photos tagged so in one place.

 

It looks it’s heading in the right direction that users will have way more chances to post pictures and messages onto Jiepang or view their friends’ entries. The 16 categories of content make it kind of an interest-based social platform. Jiepang guys like Douban, a Chinese interest-based social network. I heard a lot of their talking about how well they thought Douban was building the interest graph and doing interest targeting advertising. This time Jiepang wants to be the Douban on mobile — Douban mobile apps performs poorly.

Like Jiepang, Douban used to be proud of their “high-end” users in early days. But in nowadays China that also means a small user pool. Douban later accelerated growth thanks to the launches such as a music streaming service. At the same time it diversified revenue sources that transaction-based e-commerce commissions and digital content sales are believed to contribute increasingly more to the company than advertising.

It sounds like Jiepang is waiting for the citizens in second-tier cities who just bought their first smartphones not long ago to adopt it so as to expand the user base. Shanghai is a typical market for Jiepang where is crowded with “high-end” users who consume brands like Startbucks. More than a few of people are expecting more Chinese cities to grow to be like Shanghai in the near future. But the competition in those cities is totally a different thing. It’s just fine, of course, if Jiepang wants to be what it is, serving existing users and making ends meet by the end of this year as David Liu, co-founder and CEO of Jiepang, said at the launch event of Jiepang 5.0.

Was glad to hear him saying almost the same thing  he said three years ago when I met with him for the first time shortly after Jipang’s launch. He refers to Jiepang as a social sharing service that supports sharing content with friends on other Chinese social networks — WeChat, the new social King, has been integrated into Jiepang’s new version, unlike all its peers who’d tout how promising a service with the word, Location, in its name was and how they’d take it all.