China has seen a podcast boom amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Pockets of the country have been quarantined with resurgent outbreaks, leading to an increase in online streaming, with increasing numbers of listeners and podcast hosts.
According to data from iResearch, in 2020 alone, almost 8,000 new podcasts were launched, an increase of more than 400% compared to 2019. And in September 2021, more than 36,000 podcasts were downloaded or streamed across China. The market has had a good time in recent years.
Among the popular hosts, Sun Min and Zhou Ke operate a podcast account on Lizhi.com about aesthetics and culture. Both are professors at the South China University of Technology. Each week, listeners await stories on their “Aesthetic Commune” show, which covers a variety of topics ranging from history, literature and the arts to current affairs.
“We started the podcast in 2020. Due to the pandemic, we spent more time at home. So Zhou and I decided to start a podcast for fun. We majored in literature and aesthetic studies , so the show is mainly about books, culture and arts. Now we have thousands of fans online,” Sun Min told CGTN.
Their podcasting show has thousands of regular listeners across China. Zhou Ke said most fans started following them in 2021, when the home quarantine policy was implemented on a large scale in the country.
While some audio resources aim to align life in lockdown with pre-pandemic routines, such as online education and job training, others offer a source of relief and relaxation. People like to listen to them to recover from the pandemic. When normal social life is disrupted, listeners seek comfort to support their daily routines.
Lyu Zhenzhen, a professor at Guangzhou University’s School of Arts and Humanities, said that during the pandemic, people’s social life is more or less limited. “The podcast provides a channel to eliminate loneliness, bring emotional relief and strengthen the bond between individuals and society. Besides, the short video market has peaked in China. People are tired of watching videos all the time, so the podcast industry has the opportunity to grow,” she said.
The screenless form of edutainment entertainment is growing on several Chinese platforms, including top ones like Lizhi, Ximalaya and Xiaoyuzhou FM. According to their standards, originality and quality of content are required. But they also help creators better understand today’s audience.
“We offer full support to podcasters. From topic selection, compliance checks to content distribution, we help every step of the way. Creators can attend select training sessions, such as engagement fans and audio production,” said Xue An, manager of Lizhi Podcast.