This week, Technode’s translation column takes on a deep dive into the content-profits disconnect, looking at travel site Mafengwo with a translation carried by courtesy of Rencaijing. This article was co-authored by Jordan Schneider.

The first time I heard about Mafengwo (literally “hornets’ nest”) was in 2013, when it was only a website for travel guides and photo essays. Over the years, it’s been trying to monetize from user-generated content, first through mobile translation apps and later adopting the TripAdvisor model, integrating hotel and tour booking features onto the platform. Unlike TripAdvisor they don’t rely on a dominant search player for traffic, but Tencent, an investor, has not yet committed to giving them the traffic they need to really take off. Ctrip accounts for 36.6 percent of the total market share, vis-a-vis Qunar’s 16.5 percent, Fliggy’s 14.3 percent, Tongcheng-Elong’s 5.3 percent, and Tuniu and Meituan-Dianping’s tied share of 3.4 percent.

Facing heavy competition, Mafengwo today only charges two percent commission. Users too frequently find destinations on its travel content and end up buying on other platforms. Now it’s planning for a public listing in the midst of restructuring and layoffs. 

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Tianyu Fang

A Boston-based freelance writer on Chinese tech and culture, and an independent researcher on US-China relations. Previously, he lived in Beijing, where he worked closely with China’s tech startup community.

Jordan Schneider

Jordan Schneider is a freelancer based in Beijing and the host of the ChinaEconTalk podcast.