Created by Chairman-CEO Mr. Wang, and co-founder Marc van der Chijs, Tudou means "potato" in Chinese, a playful reference to the English idiom "couch potato."
In China, however, young consumers are glued to computer screens rather than TV sets. They are particularly drawn to sites like Tudou, which lets users upload content and manage it on their own channels. Users can share video and audio podcasts as well as wikis and blog entries with other users.
The Chinese-language site has created strong social networks, as well as some well-known "netizen" stars such as China's Back Dorm Boys, a pair of lip-syncing students who became popular across China through homemade videos posted on Tudou.
It annoys Mr. Wang, a 34-year-old Fujian who was educated in the U.S., that Tudou has been dubbed "the YouTube of China." He founded the site in April 2005, just two months after three former PayPal employees launched YouTube in the U.S.
Whether viewers see it as a Chinese copycat or a local innovator, there's no question it's successful. Tudou has a 55% share of China's video-sharing market and attracts up to 7 million unique visitors per day and about 27 million weekly who watch 360 million clips per week.
Those figures easily top its main rivals, video-sharing sections on community sites like 56.com and major portals such as Sohu, which launched a video-sharing element in its blog section last June.
"Tudou.com has become one of the fastest-growing websites in China whose audience has grown significantly over the past several months," said Nielsen/NetRatings spokeswoman Stephanie Zhu in Shanghai. She said unique visitors to Tudou.com grew from 11.49 million to 28.84 million, and weekly web pages viewed grew from 179 million in the week of May 21 to 493 million in the week of Aug. 17.
Getting marketers onboard
While the site has grown steadily in popularity, it hasn't had much impact on advertisers -- until now.
"We haven't done much with advertising on the site so far. We wanted to build up our content and user base first," said Mr. Wang, who has a background in engineering and entertainment. Before launching Tudou, he managed Bertelsmann Group's online music business in China.
About two-thirds of the site's viewers are white-collar Chinese, and many are between the ages of 17 and 25, a demographic that's hard to reach through traditional media.
In mid-July, the site began offering curtain ads that wrap around Tudou's video screen for three seconds as well as nonmoving, clickable ads surrounding the video player in the browser.
'Not too intrusive'
Ads costing about $2.50 per CPM can be placed on the site according to specific locations, surfing behaviors and topics. "The ads are accepted by our users as long as they are not too intrusive," Mr. Wang said.
So far, about 50 companies including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Intel and Viacom's MTV have tested ads on Tudou.
"It's an experiment right now for us," said Leo Tsoi, Shanghai-based marketing director for Pepsi in China. "We've been paying attention to this site for a while. Among all of China's video-sharing sites, it's the one with the most competitive technology. They're doing good tech support, and the viewing experience is comparatively better than other sites.
"Tudou's strong community aspect is appealing as well," he said. "Many Pepsi campaigns in China now are consumer-generated, and the user behavior of Tudou is in line with the kinds of consumers we want to talk to as well."