I was surprised when I came across a pop-up bar featuring a piece of news at the bottom of my Weibo homepage the other day. That’s what Chinese online news sites have been doing. Tencent uses pop-up windows to push news and other notifications to the users of its flagship application QQ IM. Sina, without a user base like QQ’s years back, would push breaking news through a pop-up bar at the bottom of an article page. So, Weibo simply took the old-fashioned way.

Two months ago Weibo joined a US$100 million round of investment in personalized news app Toutiao. A recent chat with a mid-level exec at Sina proved me right that Sina saw traffic growth slow and needed Toutiao to direct traffic, otherwise they couldn’t raise ad rates, which the company has been doing in order to grow revenue.

Sina’s major revenue sources are display advertising on the news portal and 2G mobile services, with the latter keeping declining in the past years. The company counts on traffic growth to increase ad revenue. The portal ad revenue only increased 5.9% year-over-year in Q2 2014 and non-ad revenues declined 11%.

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Tracey Xiang

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at traceyxiang@gmail.com