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Blogs make headlines with their version of the news

SU Qian, 20, wakes every day to find thousands of messages from followers of her "Life In Shanghai" microblog. She then spends hours reading through them before deciding which to publish.

Su is one of a growing number of microbloggers who have created their own "media agencies" on Weibo.com, with an audience of tens of thousands interacting with them daily.

"The most beautiful part of my job is to be trusted by my audience, who would fill you with messages to tell their stories," Su said.

By using microblogs, the media outlets gather news and views directly from local users and broadcast them on the Internet. Although some of their "news" later proves to be unverified and inaccurate, they are becoming more and more popular among local people who see them as alternatives to the usual media organizations.

Shanghai Daily has found that many of the media agencies on the microblog are owned and operated by individuals, mostly born after 1980, in contrast to the popular understanding that senior citizens are involved.

Some are university students who quit boring classes to devote their time to their new project while others regard it as a part-time job, earning income by publishing advertisements.

Vivian Guo, 22, who owns a popular media account which has more than 290,000 followers but who is still a senior student at a Shanghai college, said her day begins by gathering news information as soon as she jumps out of bed each morning, not bothering to waste even one second by putting her make-up on.

She picks news items from local newspapers or online sources and rewrites the stories in more approachable language to keep readers of her "Lehuo Shanghai," or "Shanghai Lifestyle," microblog updated.

"I regard it as my own baby, and I created it to give readers an impression of what Shanghai is and keep them updated," she said.

Another example is Kimi, a young advertising company worker who fills his leisure time with a "Daily Shanghai" microblog with 67,! 000-plus followers which focuses on reporting breaking news and exposing dishonest companies.

"Everyone can create his/her own self-media agency with a smartphone and networks," he said. "Sometimes I enjoy the feeling of helping others to report dishonest restaurants or companies."

While some agency operators cite their social responsibilities, others admit that they make money from advertising companies who queue up to post ads on their microblogs.

A single advertisement message on a microblog may earn up to 1,000 yuan (US$157), while bloggers can make even more by inserting advertising messages into news items, according to some bloggers.

Although the agencies are gaining in popularity, their future is unclear as many say it's impossible to make a living from the enterprise without taking advertising.

"Many advertising companies have asked me to work with them," said Guo, "So far I haven't accepted their offerings in fear that the audience would not like the ads."

Without the income from a regular job, she said she might have to reconsider maintaining the service.


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