Bilibili is a well-known video sharing platform in China today. It is also jokingly called “ b Zhan”( B site) and “Xiao Po Zhan” (small bankrupt site) by users. At present, Bilibili is widely popular among Generation Z+( individuals born from 1990 to 2009 in China) groups in China, and the number of viewers in the Sinosphere can not be underestimated, as well. Based on the current business nature and popularity of Bilibili, some media and individuals are used to calling it “Chinese YouTube”.
What is Bilibili?
Bilibili was founded by Xu Yi in June 2009. Its original name was Mikufans and changed its name to Bilibili in January 2010( Bilibili investor home, 2021). The model of this platform was originally based on a similar Japanese website named Nico Nico( Uncle Bruce, 2021). At the beginning of its establishment, Bilibili mainly focused on ACG (i.e. animation, comics and games) content creation and sharing( Uncle Bruce, 2021). After more than ten years of development, it now mainly carried out UGC mode – users generate content and built an ecosystem that continuously produces high-quality content around audiences, creators and content. At present, the overall MAU( monthly active users) of Bilibili has reached 237.1 million and its mobile MAU 220.5 million, which represents an increase of 38% and 44% respectively over the same period in 2020( Bilibili, 2021).
The Monetization Model of Bilibili
“ Single platforms can opt for a range of different business models, creating value out of data, content, user contacts, and attention by selling advertisements, subscriptions, and user data or by charging fees( van Dijck, 2018).”
At present, Bilibili’s main business includes video sharing, mobile games, live broadcasting, comics, advertising, e-commerce and so on. There are as many as 17 video partitions, covering from lifestyle, games, entertainment, anime and tech & knowledge to many( Bilibili investor home, 2021).
As mentioned above, Bilibili is currently in UGC mode. The video shooting costs released by the content creators of the whole platform are borne by the bloggers themselves. The company only needs to provide the platform and attract traffic, which greatly reduces the operation cost of the platform. In recent years, Bilibili has attracted users of different ages and fields, including some professionals. At the same time, many people noticed the possibility of the future development of the self-media market and joined one after another. In this way, the platform wants to broaden the user base, coupled with the influx of a large number of talents in the self-media market, it has created rich content in all fields of BiliBili today. Recently, Bilibili has also reached cooperation with a number of university professors, invited them to enter Bilibili, released videos, and launched courses for users to buy and study. For example, Bilibili invited Professor Dai Jinhua, who teaches at Peking University and Beijing Film Academy, and launched a series of courses called Dai Jinhua Master Course: Gender and Gaze, which costs 128 B coins ( cybermoney of Bilibili), equivalent to 128 RMB.
According to the 2020 annual report of Bilibili, we can see that Bilibili now relies on mobile games to make profits. In 2020, the mobile game revenue dominates its overall revenue, accounting for 40% of total revenue. This is followed by value-added service, accounting for 32% of total revenue. The next is advertising, accounting for 15.4% of total revenue, and the e-commerce and others share the remaining 12.6%( Bilibili, 2021). It is worth noticing that although the mobile game is still the main source of Bilibili’s revenue, compared with 2019, the revenue proportion of mobile game has already significantly decreased from 53% to 40%( Bilibili, 2021). At the same time, however, the proportion of revenue in other parts has increased( Bilibili, 2020). Therefore, we may need to categorize Bilibili more discreetly rather than arbitrarily categorize it as a game company covered by the video-sharing experience.
The Strong Community Attribute of Bilibili
With the development of the Internet, compared with the earlier times, the notion of an audience now is seemly redundant as “ there are no discrete categories of senders and receivers”( Mcquail, 2013). Coupled with the popularity of Fandom, the participatory culture is now popular on the Internet, participants active on the Internet will spontaneously and actively contribute to their communities( Jenkins,2014).
The Internet changes rapidly, though the mobile game revenue occupied a large portion of Bilibili’s total revenue in recent two years, it is better to be seen as a commercial practice in Bilibili community operation. In the long run, its community culture is the long-term core competency of Bilibili, Bilibili also officially claims that cultivating an engaging community where every user feels a sense of belonging has always been their top priority and believes that their vibrant community forms one of their strongest competitive advantages( Bilibili investor home, 2021).
Pride and Joy, Community Culture
Bullet Chatting– The bullet chat function on Bilibili is an adaptation from a Japanese anime video website, Niconico. With bullet chats, viewers simply pause and post comments during any part of the video that they like( Mei, 2021). The communication mode of Bilibili based on bullet chatting is intensive user interactive. This function has not only become a significant symbol of Bilibili community culture but has also been promoted to other video platforms in China.
Bililbili Girls– BiliBili’s girls( named 22 and 33) are not only the official figure but also the brand symbol of Bilibili. These two characters are widely known and loved by users and they often appear in various official activities representing Bilibili.
Pocket TV– Another brand symbol of Bilibili, designed as a pet of Bilibili girls.
Membership Scheme– User registration must take the promotion examination and get more than 60 points. The time limit is 60 minutes, a total of 100 questions, including Internet social etiquette and some basic knowledge of ACG.
Balance Commercialization and User Experience? It’s not that easy.
Because of the strong community attribute of Bilibili, users in the community have much in common, which means the high stickiness and loyalty of users in the whole community, but at the same time, users are also highly sensitive to changes in product experience and commercialization. In order to guarantee the user experience and maintain their core competitive advantage, Bilibili’s steps on the road of advertising revenue are restrained- only two types of advertisements( display advertising arrangement and performance-based advertisements) are currently available on Bilibili.
Concerns Raised about Bilibili
“ The platform ecosystem is not a level playing field( van Dijck, 2018).”
Due to the unique positioning of the Bilibili platform and perhaps the reasons for China’s network restrictions, Bilibili has formed a monopoly in China’s long video sharing platform market to some extent. This monopoly is reflected not only in the competition within the market, but also in the video content – however the Internet needs more competition to provide users with more choices, and ensure the diversification of Internet information. At the same time, Bilibili’s strong community attribute and strong interaction also require the platform to have a corresponding review ability to prevent the breeding and fermentation of hate speech in the community.
As a video sharing platform, Bilibili’s community attribute makes it stand out among many similar platforms. This characteristic not only gives Bilibili brand characteristics but also lays a challenge for its future development. It is not difficult to see what kind of role that Bilibili intends to play in the ecosystem composed of content, creators, community and users. The community needs to actively lubricate if the dynamically and positively operation of the ecosystem is looked forward to.
Bilibili. (2021). Bilibili Inc. Annual Report 2020. https://ir.bilibili.com/static-files/98bfad59-0a57-467c-a3f4-e250c3bada4b
Bilibili. (2021). Bilibili Inc. Announces Second Quarter 2021 Financial Results. https://ir.bilibili.com/system/files-encrypted/nasdaq_kms/assets/2021/08/19/4-25-16/Bilibili%20Inc.%20Announces%20Second%20Quarter%202021%20Financial%20Results.pdf
Bilibili Investor Home. (2021). Company Profile. https://ir.bilibili.com/corporate-information/company-profile
Dijck, J. V. (2018). The Platform Society as a contested concept. The Platform Society, 5–32. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780190889760.003.0002
Feixue Mei. (2021). Bullet chats in China: Bilibili, language, and interaction. Transformative Works & Cultures, 36, 7. https://doi-org.ezproxy.library.sydney.edu.au/10.3983/twc.2021.1939
Jenkins, H. (2014). Fandom studies as I see it. The journal of fandom studies, 2(2), 89-109.
McQuail, D. (2013). The media audience: A brief biography – Stages of growth or paradigm change?. The Communication Review, 16(1-2), 9-21. https://doi.org/10.1080/10714421.2013.757170
Uncle Bruce. (2021, February 23 ). Chinese YouTube – bilibili (BILI)[Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zCabrgrA2I