It’d been a long while before Sohu drew public attention again. Charles Zhang, founder and CEO of the company, said he became depressed around 2010 and kind of “retreated”.
He would expect Sohu Weibo to become a hit if he didn’t left from the frontstage back then, he said so in a recent interview. Now there’s no way for any Weibo to beat Sina Weibo. Baishehui, the white-collar-targeted social networking service Sohu had put a lot of effort into by 2010, turned out to be another failure.
Charles Zhang got back this year and brought a lot hype.
Fortunately for Zhang, Sogou has been growing healthily in terms of market share and profitability, games by Changyou are still lucrative, and Sohu are in time riding the trends of online video and mobile reading.
News broke out in early May that Sogou was looking for a potential buyer. Wang Xiaochuan, CEO of Sogou, later confirmed that Sogou was looking for strategic investors and admitted talks with Qihoo.
Charles Zhang might not see Sogou to become the market leader in Chinese Input Method when he decided to develop a search service back in 2006. With the user base, Sogou later successfully gained some search market share and made money through paid search and by monetizing the traffic in Sogou browser. Both Charles Zhang and Wang Xiaochuan had said that they’d like to see Sogou go public some day.
But its search market share is no more than 10% while Qihoo’s search engine reached that milestone within four months after its launch in last August and kept gaining market share. Zhang expected Sogou to take increasing market share from Baidu before Qihoo’s joining the search market. For Qihoo, taking over or standing together with Sogou helps fight against Baidu.
After Baidu announced acquisition of PPS, a peer-to-peer video service, the public expect to see another rumor come true. It was reported that Sohu began acquisition talks with PPTV, a video service similar to PPS in a lot of ways, from last year.
Zhang did say that they’d like to acquire a large-sized video service. Prior to PPTV, Baofeng.com and Xunlei’s Kankan.com were reportedly also approached by Sohu, but no deal was reached.
At an event yesterday, Zhang said “Sohu hasn’t reached any deal with PPTV. Big news will be announced together with earnings release.”
Sohu bets big on online video. Tons of money is spent on buying American drama series and, more recently, one of the hottest Chinese TV shows. Sohu Video acquired talents from traditional TV industry to produce original content and promote third-party content.
But Sohu Video isn’t so successful compared with the fuss it made. Charles Zhang thinks it’s due to poor marketing and lack of user-generated content — the former is for branding and the latter for traffic.
Sohu News Platform
Sohu News, who used to buy content from third-party providers, opened its platform for third parties to publish content directly and began sharing advertising revenues with them. Mr. Zhang doesn’t only expect it to be a platform, but also a profit contributor.
Its mobile app announced 100 million installs in April (in Chinese). It is said that it gained traction so fast is because tens of millions of smartphones are pre-installed with the app. Zhang kind of aknowledged it in an interview, saying in feature phone time “we were a service provider. We have experience and resources when it comes to cooperating with local telecom operators and device manufacturers ever since 2001. That’s channel power.”
To be honest, Sohu News moves fast. In contrast, Sina News who was leading the market of online news on the Web, moved slowly that launched a revamped mobile app as recently as in this month.
Zhang also knows about the threat from WeChat that everyone can subscribe to a news source through the WeChat official account platform.