Rag tales: Expat Websites wars about to heat up in Bejing
I love dramatic titles, especially if they include the word WAR.. even though in this case, I’d rather think about it more as “competition”..
The way things go in Beijing, for the English speaking expat population, we tend to rely on one of 3 names: The Beijinger, City Weekend and/or Time Out. Each one of these had their advantage and disadvantages in the print edition as well as online. City Weekend went out of their way to incorporate everything web 2.0 and get users involved in the site. The Beijinger has been stuck on a drupal driven site that is not the easiest to build on but nevertheless was reliable with forums and reviews. Timeout has always been the odd one out online with just the bare minimum of information on their English portal in Beijing… Things are about to change:
They are experimenting with new layouts and different content on a regular basis. while it’s hit or miss depending on who you ask, they’re at least trying and changing things around. I’m not a big fan of their latest layout as it takes away valuable article space. As a matter of fact, I decided against going with a thumbnail driven mainpage on Beijingdaze.com because of the frustrations associated with their latest layout. Their slideshow news are badly implemented: I’d rather have a summary of each visible at all times, not just a number (see Time Out implementation)
One thing they seem to be doing is pushing the classified section of the site, both online and offline… in all the years i’ve been checking things online, that has been one of their weakest points… overall, I’ll give them an A for effort!
Old reliable and a sentimental favorite. I know quite a few expats who do rely on The Beijinger instead of the other two because “it speaks for the common person”. It’s a bunch of foreigners who have been in Beijing for a while standing toe to toe with multinational conglomerates like Ringier Media and Time Out. You kinda have to stick with the little guys! Their classified section and forums are the rock on which the site is built… no matter how childish some of the forum users are, there is no denying their popularity. That said, they are being left behind.. slowly but surely:
The review system is outdated as one can only review a place once. I understand the rationale to avoid fraud/fake comments but there’s gotta be a better way. I want to be able to go leave a new comment on a restaurant after a year or two, not change the old comment.
While the look is outdated and the site navigation/architecture is a nightmare to navigate, they still give more useful information in the first part of the screen than their competition. TBJ is still my go to website for most things but I’m open to change
Time Out Beijing:
Their old site was always crap… the new portal however is promising! it looks like they have taken their sweet time to see what worked and what didn’t with the expat community and they’re finally ready to unleash the beast. I’m looking at their and CW sites at the moment to compare and it’s quite telling. The TO guys have a better UI / Usability person. They also have too many adds on that first part of the screen… worst one in terms of total useful information between the big 3
Granted, the site is just launching right now with tons of information still missing but I’m liking it already.. it is clean, modern, friendly, not littered with adds.. Let’s see how it develops! Much like with everything TO does, there is no place for user input, they’re sticking to editorial content…. I wish they opened things up a bit.
I almost didn’t include them on here because of various reasons but I believe they have their place on the list. User reviews and content drive this site with their gigantic database. They’re getting more news and original content slowly but surely and i do know a few folks that rely on them exclusively for reviews. I don’t… The site has been a nightmare to access since day 1 as it is slower than any of the others.. That’s the biggest reason I don’t even bother unless i’m looking for an address.
The community is nice but I just can’t get into it. It seems like a throwback from years ago for whatever reason! That’s where the creeps hide out ( I’m sorry if this sounds rude but that’s the impression i get)
We Live in Beijing:
I really like them but they’re irregular at best. They can go one without a single post/news for months and then throw in a few good ones then disappear again. I just can’t be bothered anymore! I wish they could make better use of the excellent writers they have at their disposition.
Is there really enough of a market for all of these guys to co-exist? Which one do you rely on?