If you read Chinese and have an hour to spend, you can check out the bustling conversations happening on Wang Ran and Keso’s blogs, in answer to the question of why BBS are so popular in China and not elsewhere (at least, not in the U.S.).
Here are a few of the ideas being tossed around. Chinese people like BBS because:
there aren’t enough other places to speak your mind
people have too much time on their hands [note: Isaac Mao’s “boredom economy”, but it wouldn’t explain why BBS and not blogs]
people are acting out alternate selves online
they like the bustling activity of BBS
they’re easy to use
they provide a sense of community [note: but so do blogs]
I think there may be another important factor: the entry barrier to the BBS is about as low as it gets, while the potential benefits are huge. BBS, unlike blogs, allow individuals to post creative packages of text and photos to a huge audience–without having to maintain an individual blog. They don’t have to spend the time and daily effort of creating an individual “brand,” but can take advantage of the BBS brand and reputation. And the BBS can tolerate any number of topics, unlike many blogs which tend to focus on certain zones such as politics, gossip, or IT.
I have often wondered the opposite, which is why there aren’t Chinese-style BBS in the U.S.? Perhaps our media readerships are already too fragmented?