Ep. 39: Podcasting in China — the Myth and the Reality


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Episode 39 of TechBuzz China is on a topic of special interest to our co-hosts, Ying-Ying Lu and Rui Ma: podcasting in China! It was sparked by two recent pieces of news within the podcasting industry. The first was the acquisition of Gimlet Media, a podcasting network, by the newly IPOed music-streaming service Spotify for $200 million; the second was the $100 million raised by the podcasting platform Himalaya. In fact, Himalaya’s main investor, China’s Ximalaya FM, boasts 23 million daily active users and is rumored to be going for an IPO soon.

In contrast to our typical coverage here at TechBuzz, the above subject barely made a splash in Chinese media — but it was a big deal in English-language news, with quite a few articles mentioning China as a leader in the podcasting industry. One often-referenced article stated that the Chinese government estimated the “pay-for-knowledge” economy to be about $7.3 billion in 2017, with the bulk of it coming from paid podcasts. However, Rui and Ying-Ying ask: Is this an accurate reflection of the industry in China? Is it true that the notoriously frugal Chinese just love paying for podcasts? In fact, why are our co-hosts doing an English podcast and not a Chinese one?

Rui and Ying-Ying begin by taking our readers on a short journey covering the history of podcasts in China. First, how do we define the “podcast” industry and how does it relate to markets such as the “pay-for-knowledge” sector, which is seeing explosive growth in China? Why has this market taken off? How does the expert-celebrity mentality fit in, as well as knowledge anxiety and the concept that information is money? Who are some of the top audio content creators in China today, and how have they generated such incredible revenue streams? How has the threat of censorship affected how content is created and distributed, and which platforms win out? Other than Ximalaya, what are some of the other companies in this space? What do Rui and Ying-Ying think is the future of the industry?

As always, you can find these stories and more at pandaily.com. Do let us know what you think of the show by leaving us an iTunes review, liking our Facebook page, and tweeting at us at @techbuzzchina to win some swag! Thanks also to our listeners over at our partner, dealstreetasia.com.

Special thanks to our awesome producers, Shaw Wan and Kaiser Kuo. Our intern is Wang Menglu.