Li Ziqi’s vlog- a Felliniesque take on her life in the village- has attracted over 10 million eyeballs. She used her instant fame to build a successful online business and in the process made more than CNY 100 million (USD 14.7 million) in three days. For the Chinese youth, vlogging is the in thing.
Vlog is short for video blogs – where most of the content is videos or livestreams. In the early days, vlog stood for scheduled release of videos on digital platforms such as YouTube.
Short videos have dominated mobile screens in China from the business end of 2016. Vlogs, by comparison, is detailed and far more narrative in structure. Celebrities including Ouyang Nana played a big hand in promoting vlogs in China.
Sun Dongshan, a Chinese vlogger who has created over 150 vlogs since 2016, said, “the most significant feature of a vlog is authenticity. We can express ourselves in an artistic or inflated way, but the reality is always the foremost.”
Chinese online celebrity Dang Gui has echoed a similar view. According to her, vlogs are real and sincere. Dang Gui has more than 290,000 followers and 6.47 million views on the video site Bilibili (哔哩哔哩). Her video diaries were a sensation. “A vlog is a personalised record of my life, not a TV show. In other words, it is part of my life,” she said.
Sun Dongshan said vlogging shrinks the distance between him and the audience. He considers his viewers more like friends rather than fans. The younger Chinese generation, particularly the 'post-95', are open, expressive and keen to share their life experiences online. And, Video blogging fits the bill.
In terms of content, males prefer topics like games, software and hardware, while females appreciate cuisines and cosmetics, according to recent research conducted by market analysis firm Jakpat.
Dang Gui offered her two cents about the phenomenon. “Men may have natural strengths in technology compared to women. So tech gadgets and related videos are more appealing to men,” she said.
Liu Jin Yin, a 26-year-old farmer, receives virtual gifts worth USD 1,500 every month from streaming his rural life in China’s Sichuan province, reported America’s National Public Radio. Liu’s videos have a total of 200,000 subscribers.
“I worked in a zipper factory on the coast when I was 16 years old. Later, I came back to breed goats in my hometown. I have tried many ways to make money, without success. Video blogging changed everything. Now, I’m able to stay at home to take care of my parents. Everyone is happy,” he said.
Big brands such as OPPO is jumping into the bandwagon and adopting vlogs for marketing. According to Trendwatch, OPPO put five vloggers to work to build engagement in the run-up to the official launch of its R15 smartphone. One of the vloggers, Da Gai Shi Jing Yue, clocked 11,574 views within the first few days. Roughly, he will earn CNY 2778 (USD 410) from a 15-second clip.
“Viewers often respond positively about the commercial use of a vlog because it serves as a real-life test and provides objective comments,” said Da Gai Shi Jing Yue. “Vlog itself is a real-life experience. Vlogs for product promotion is quite ubiquitous in China.”
In 2019, leading digital platforms like Bilibili and Sina Weibo (微博) launched projects to support the Chinese vlog industry. “We have developed several easy-to-use tools for newcomers in the sector. Meanwhile, we endeavoured to monetise popular content and make video blogging an integrated ecosystem,” said Flypig, founder of a video-clip app.
However, the project only includes vloggers who have more than 1 million views and 10,000 subscribers, or MCN (multi-channel network) organisations cooperating with Weibo. For millions of content creators, monetising a vlog is a painful process. “Now there are hundreds and millions of vloggers, so it’s harder to get one’s percentage from ads,” commented Chinese news website jiemian.com (界面).
“In the future, the success of a video will depend on the content rather than form. Quality matters. Moreover, vlog commercialisation in China should focus on cultivating super vloggers and set up MCN organisations to avoid the risk of vlogging going out of favour,” the source added.