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Honey money, sex and crimes on the Internet

Updated: 2016-01-25 07:05
By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)

The chat rooms are forecast to have 100 million unique users each month for 2016, which probably puts them on a par with the popularity of television in its early days.

Unlike movies or television shows, anyone can be a star-well, as long as you are endowed with good looks. The most popular rooms all belong to game sites, so hosts are supposed to talk about the games or even simulcast their plays. But gradually, appearance becomes the main attraction.

Meanwhile, in a field where hundreds of thousands of similar rooms are competing, the urge to break the rules is almost irresistible.

And look at the revenue model. There is no charge for admission like movies, no subscription system like premium cable channels.

The model does not solely rely on advertising. Much of the money comes from viewers who send the hosts "gifts" in the form of virtual flowers or tokens they can purchase from the websites with real money.

On one website, a token is called a "rocket" and costs 500 yuan ($76) each. Some wealthy users send dozens to a hostess they root for. There are tales of "bidding wars" when as much as 1 million yuan is spent in one chat room on a given night.

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