Weibo postings spread news faster than any other media, said Deng Fei, a reporter with Phoenix Weekly. He has more than 230,000 followers on his Sina weibo and more than 2.5 million on his Tecent weibo.
"As people repost, new information is added," said Deng, who spends around four hours a day on his weibo. "It's a great platform to generate and disseminate information," he said.
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) reports that over 70 percent of microbloggers use their weibo account as their primary source of news and some 60 percent say it's trustworthy.
By contrast only about 9 percent of Americans say they get their news mainly from social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook, according to a Pew Center report.
Research by CASS found that most weibo users are college-educated professionals. Younger users prefer entertainment news and celebrity gossip, while older users are more likely to follow social and political news, notes the science academy.
About 71 percent of those who responded to a recent online Global Times poll attribute their growing interest in politics to their use of microblogs. Nearly 60 percent of the 1,285 respondents said they are more likely to express their political views on microblogs.
Weibo subscribers are not only reading news, they're also reporting on it. Many have also become very inventive with their use of language, spawning new words such as "Weiguan" which loosely translates as "surround and surveillance."
Wu Gan, 38, made his weibo name as an advocate for victims of social injustice. The Fujian Province resident opened a weibo account last year and in his latest crusade he defends a convicted murderer who was sentenced to death last week. Wu believes vendor Xia
Junfeng from Liaoning Province, was acting in self-defense when he killed two chengguan, urban management officials, and injured another.
"I believe we should use this new tool to promote civil society, and enhance social morals," Wu said.
"Using online posting to draw attention to some cases is certainly a good thing but it won't necessarily change the result," said Wu.
"It's more important that online attention turns into action offline, that's where a real change happens," he said.
Weibo showed its power to fight injustice last September when millions of users followed the story of a Jiangxi Province family, who set themselves on fire to protest the forcible demolition of their home.
When local officials tried to stop the family from going to Beijing for petitions, journalists broadcast the incident as it was happening on their weibo. Many believe that those weibo postings caused the county government to change its stance and sit down to talk with the family.
Since then, intellectuals and media professionals have used microblogs for other good causes such as rescuing kidnapped children by taking pictures of beggar kids and instantly posting them on their weibo.
In another case of a rapid response initiated by weibo postings, a Beijing motorist stopped a truckload of 500 dogs destined for the meat market in Jilin Province last month. He spotted the truck on the highway and sent out texts and weibo alerts to other animal activists. Hundreds of people arrived and after some hours of negotiations the dogs were purchased and taken to a Beijing animal shelter.