Report: Podcasts gain popularity in China as one in five Internet users tuned in last year

More than 220 million of the China’s nearly 1.1 billion Internet users tuned into podcasts on Ximalaya’s platform last year, across 31 genres. Young professionals helped Chinese podcasts attract ads from global brands such as drinks giant Coca-Cola and luxury carmaker Cadillac. — SCMP

One in five Internet users in China listened to a podcast last year, as the once niche sector gained popularity in 2023, according to recently published research.

More than 220 million of the country’s nearly 1.1 billion Internet users tuned into podcasts hosted by Ximalaya last year, across 31 genres of programmes, according to research published on Friday by the Chinese podcast service provider.

The audience for its podcasts skewed towards young Chinese professionals working in the country’s higher-tier cities, Ximalaya’s research showed.

The user group aged between 24 and 40 years represented more than 60% of podcast listeners in China, while those from tier-one and tier-two cities accounted for more than 65% of the total audience.

Consumers in China are also increasingly more inclined to pay for quality podcast content, with more than half signing up for premium content. More than 22,000 podcast hosts earned a combined total of 70mil yuan (RM45.49mil) on Ximalaya last year, the company revealed in its research.

Young professionals also helped Chinese podcasts attract ads from global brands, from food and beverage giant Coca-Cola to luxury US carmaker Cadillac, providing an additional monetisation channel for the industry, according to a separate report by market consultancy iResearch.

Chinese users primarily tuned into podcasts during their daily commutes, with health and lifestyle, Chinese history, global politics, frontier technology, business and entertainment, as well as fantasy and thriller stories among the most popular genres on the Ximalaya platform.

Chinese podcast preferences were partially the result of the country’s strict censorship of online content. General news and politics, two of the most popular genres among podcast listeners in Western countries, were missing from the list in China, according to Ethan Cramer-Flood, a researcher at market consultancy Insider Intelligence.

“In the West, maybe news and politics rank relatively highly, whereas in China it’s just nowhere to be found because the censorship regime is so strict there,” Flood said in an online discussion last November. “So it’s (topics) like lifestyle, fashion, pet care ... sports (that) are all at the top of the list because (they are) nothing remotely controversial.”

Still, Chinese podcasts are flourishing despite the country’s online content crackdown. In 2023, Ximalaya’s platform hosted 5.2 million more podcast episodes than the year before.

The podcast industry in China is also riding the wave of generative artificial intelligence (AI), which increases efficiency and helps with content creation, thanks to a suite of AI-powered audio tools Ximalaya launched last year. – South China Morning Post

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