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No wonder many young people shun regular jobs, China sees livestreaming sales hit RMB 1.27 trillion in the first half of 2023


Nov 4, 2011
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No wonder many young people shun regular jobs, China sees livestreaming sales hit RMB 1.27 trillion in the first half of 2023​

Sep 22, 2023

China sees livestreaming sales hit RMB 1.27 trillion in the first half of 2023. Credit: Bigstock/weedezign

In the first half of 2023, China’s major e-commerce platforms achieved a cumulative livestreaming sales volume of RMB 1.27 trillion ($174 billion), according to a September 21 report by IThome, which cited data from the National Institute of Metrology, China.

In the first half of this year, there were over 110 million livestreams on these platforms and more than 70 million products were showcased through live commerce, the report said. During the same period, the number of active e-commerce livestreamers in China reached over 2.7 million.

In 2022, more than 120 million livestreaming activities were conducted on major e-commerce platforms and received over 1.1 trillion views in total, according to a report released in January by China’s Ministry of Commerce and the National Bureau of Statistics. Throughout 2022, there were 1.1 million active livestreamers in China, the report stated.


Young Chinese are quitting their jobs to become social media influencers amid economic slowdown​

Sep 23, 2023

One morning recently, Rainbow Li woke up and checked her phone to see how a social media post she had published the night before was going.

It had already received 10,000 likes.

"There were maybe a hundred likes every minute," the 25-year-old said.

"My first thought was, 'I can raise my price'."

Ms Li, who lives in Chengdu, is a full-time social media influencer primarily working on Red, a Chinese Instagram-like platform.

Every day she produces content targeting young people, including about how stressed out she felt in her old job and tips on how to become a social media influencer.

She makes money by charging companies to mention their products — like vitamin supplements, stationery, and skincare creams — in her short videos or the captions on her photos.

The post that went viral recently was about teaching people how to use social media platforms to attract advertisers.

"For every 10 young people around me, about three are trying to be [influencers]," she told the ABC.

A sign of livestream agency Romomo is seen during an organised media tour to the e-commerce solutions company

China now has a large number of agencies that mentor young people to become social media influencers. (Reuters: Aly Song)
That may understate the trend.

According to a survey of 10,000 young people conducted by Chinese social media platform Weibo in July, more than 60 per cent were interested in becoming a social media influencer.

Ms Li said she charged advertisers the "industry-standard price" for an advertisement — about 10 yuan ($2.12) for every 1,000 followers.

This means that one advertisement can earn Ms Li, who has more than 100,000 followers, about 10,000 yuan ($2,129).

As businesses gear up for China's biggest shopping festival Singles Day in November, Ms Li's monthly earnings have surpassed 100,000 yuan ($21,000) for the first time — many times more than the average income of a corporate worker in China's big cities.

She has also been providing individual mentoring to wannabe influencers for a fee of 599 yuan ($129) per hour.

While Ms Li is a freelancer, some young people sign contracts with influencer agencies, known in China as Multiple-Channel Networks (MCN), that guide them in producing content.

Since 2020, the number of China's influencer agencies has grown to more than 47,000, according to Chinese data analytics firm iiMedia Research.

A salesperson conducts a livestreaming session at the Romomo livestreaming centre

Experts say being a social media influencer is now considered a legitimate career path in China.(Reuters: Aly Song)
For older Chinese, being a social media celebrity is generally still not considered a long-term career path.

It's often referred as "eating youth rice".

However, more and more young people were seeing it as a legitimate option, said Elaine Jing Zhao, a senior lecturer in the School of the Arts and Media at the University of New South Wales.

"People see the real potential in making money out of live streaming, via advertising deals or m-commerce [mobile phone commerce] or viewer tipping," Dr Zhao said.

"On a cultural level, people perceive this as an option which offers them the space to make their own decisions.

"The economic slowdown may [also] force some people to look for other options."

'Chosen by fortune'​

A woman sits on a rocky beach and looks at her phone

Rainbow Li said her previous job left her feeling burnt out. (Supplied: Rainbow Li)
Ms Li was an operations manager at a Chinese gaming company before she quit in April.

Although she had been running her current social media account since 2022, she had never thought of quitting her full-time job for fear of losing a steady income.

However, when China's economy failed to bounce back after COVID-19 restrictions were eased, Ms Li's company began laying off employees.

China's youth unemployment exceeded a historic 21 per cent, before the government decided to stop publishing the data last month.

Ms Li was being asked to work 8am to midnight almost every day, which led to severe burnout.

"I couldn't maintain stable emotions even with my family and friends," she said.

"I was in a very unhealthy state."
Despite still needing to work six hours a day to plan and produce her social media content, and spend more time to monitor her audience data, Ms Li said her life was relaxed compared to her previous job.

She said she was glad to have made the switch.

A woman sits at a computer and looks at a bar chart

Rainbow Li monitors her audience data continuously.(Supplied: Rainbow Li)
"I think social media influencers are situated in an emerging market," she said.

"We're the ones who have been chosen by fortune."
Despite China's recent economic troubles, social media advertising is still growing.

Meanwhile, a report from PwC in July estimated that China's growing influencer industry and social media platforms would drive the country's internet advertising sector to an annual growth rate of 13.13 per cent this year, compared to the global average of 7.96 per cent.

'My time has no value'​

A male wearing sunglasses standing on the beach

Charles Xu has found the path to becoming a successful live streamer more difficult than he thought. (Supplied: Charles Xu)
Not everyone fares so well trying to make it as an influencer.

In October last year, Charles Xu started an account on Douyin, the name for TikTok in China, to sell socks during live streams.

During the live streams, viewers can chat with and buy products from influencers, making it a more engaging and fun way to shop.

Mr Xu said that for a while he was earning about 200 to 250 yuan ($42.6 to $53) during each two-hour live streaming session.

An iPhone with a lot of socks hanging off the back

Charles Xu found that as the economy continued to struggle people were not buying as many socks as last year. (Supplied: Charles Xu)
Based on that rate, Mr Xu was confident he could earn about 10,000 yuan ($2,130) a month by doing two live streams a day, enough to cover basic expenses and allow him not to be stuck in the office every day.

A woman standing in front of Louvre Museum

But after he quit his job to be a full-time influencer this year, his daily income dropped to about 60 yuan ($12).

"People weren't as enthusiastic about shopping as they were last year," he said.
"I would tell them [viewers] that your deal comes from my time because my time has no value.

"For me, there's no way this business is going to work for me full-time anymore."

Mr Xu blamed the economy but also the intense competition among influencers on Douyin.

Data from China's market consulting firm iResearch found there were 1.23 million influencers in China's live stream industry.

University of Sydney lecturer Su Chunmeizi, the author of Douyin, TikTok, and China's Online Screen Industry, said there was a "sustainability problem" within the influencer sector.

"If we look at influencers on the internet, you'll see that almost all of them have their crisis moments," Dr Su said.

"You may accidentally make a harsh comment or speak on something you shouldn't, and then your entire career is in jeopardy.
"You need to spend endless nights and put in endless efforts to build up your popular public persona and then ensure that it stays that way."

He was beloved by young shoppers and Chinese Communist Party. But when he tried to sell an ice cream cake to millions of his followers, everything went wrong.
A young man reads paper while two other people help him with his makeup.

Dr Su said how long China's social media influencers would remain profitable was unclear.

Social media influencers started in China as an affordable channel for businesses to advertise compared to TV and magazines, she said.

But in recent years, the prices of such channels have dramatically increased.

Dr Su said that once a more cost-effective advertising channel became available, companies would likely abandon influencers.

The trend of young people quitting their jobs to become online celebrities was "disturbing", she added.

"It's a question of whether we should promote this kind of career expectation as a society and what is the future of this if we continue down this path?" she said.

Every day she produces content targeting young people, including about how stressed out she felt in her old job and tips on how to become a social media influencer.
We call this a pyramid scheme.

Reminds me of a poem:
Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on
This social media stuff is ruining society. Soon no kid or teenager will want to become an engineer or a doctor. No, they will want to be a YouTuber.

It won't happen, the space will soon saturate just like uber did. When uber started there were reports of drivers earning upto 80-90k an year working regular hours, now every other nga does uber in freetime so these people barely make enough to get by. Similarly, there are now wayyyy too many travel vloggers food vloggers, game streamers etc. Like every white boi with a camera has become a food and travel expert... For now they are lucky - they mainly travel to poor and developing nations in Asia and Africa and Latin America where people have rarely seen white mans before and they get a lot of attention from locals, freebies at food stalls, celebrity treatment and lot of excited locals subscribe to their channels but thats not going to hold for long. People even in these poor countries are already getting tired of youtubers and cameras glaring in their faces all the time, needless commotion and invasion of privacy caused by these schmucks...And the fact that there is so many of them. With so many youtubers around, its soon going to get harder and harder for people to get to a million subscribers and at the same time, with so much choice even companies that pay these people for ads will start paying less and less- ultimately it will cease to be a financially lucrative field.

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