­­Audio content booming: Podcast business grows in China amid pandemic
Bi Ran

China has seen a podcast boom amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Pockets of the country have been put under periods of quarantine with resurgent outbreaks, which has led to a rise in online streaming, with a growing number of both podcast listeners and hosts.

According to iResearch data, in 2020 alone, nearly 8,000 new podcasts were launched - a rise of over 400 percent from 2019. And by September 2021, over 36,000 podcasts have been either downloaded or streamed across China. The market is welcoming a good time in the recent years.

Among the popular hosts, Sun Min and Zhou Ke are operate a podcasting account on about aesthetics and culture. Both of them are professors at the South China University of Technology. Every week, listeners await stories on their show "Aesthetic Commune," which covers various topics from history, literature and the arts to news.

"We started the podcast in 2020. Due to the pandemic, we've been spending 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 of the fans started to follow them in 2021, where the home quarantine policy was implemented at scale in the country.

While some audio resources aim to align life in lockdown with pre-pandemic routines, such as online education and skills training, others offer a source of relief and relaxation. People like to listen to them for reprieve from the pandemic. When normal social life is disturbed, listeners sought comfort to support their daily routines.

Lyu Zhenzhen, a professor at School of Arts & Humanities of Guangzhou University, said that during the pandemic, people's social lives are more or less limited. "Podcasting offers a channel to remove loneliness, provide emotional relief, and strengthen the connection between individuals and society. Besides, the short-form video market has reached a peak in China. People are becoming tired of watching videos all the time, so the podcast industry has the opportunity to grow," she said.

The screen-free form of edutainment is growing on multiple Chinese platforms, including top ones like Lizhi, Ximalaya, and Xiaoyuzhou FM. According to their standards, originality and quality content are a must. But they also help educate creators on better understanding today's audience.

"We offer well-rounded support to podcasters. From topic selection, compliance checks, to content distribution, we help with every step of the operation. Creators can attend some training sessions, such as fans engagement and audio production," said Xue An, manager of Lizhi Podcast.

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