Over the past few months, the promotion and popularity of Chinese video news platform Pear Video (梨视频) has been exponentially growing on China’s various social media platforms. Its rise is noteworthy, especially after Chinese authorities announced new regulations concerning the sharing of ‘unofficial’ online news videos in December of 2016.
According to The Guardian, the new regulations block public (media) accounts on platforms such as WeChat and Weibo from (re)posting “user-generated audio or video” (Haas 2016).
Chinese media sources (e.g. Sina News) reported that these regulations are specifically about user-generated news that focuses on current politics “and such.”
Short videos have become an increasingly popular tool in the world of Chinese media, with short news video platforms like Kanka News (@看看新闻) having thousands of followers on Chinese social media.
WHAT IS PEAR VIDEO?
“China’s leading short news video platform.”
Pear Video calls itself “China’s leading short news video platform” (梨视频是中国领先的资讯短视频平台). With an app and ultra-short informative news clips, it is a digital video platform that is specifically aimed at mobile users.
The company was established in September 2016. It was founded by Qiu Bing, former CEO of Chinese media outlet The Paper. In its official description on its website and Facebook, it states that it has received an investment of over one hundred million RMB (±14.4M$) by China Media Capital, and that its team consists of over 200 members, allegedly producing 200 news videos every day.
The company also states that its team members come from media companies such as, among others, The Paper (澎湃) and the Shanghai Media Group.
Pear Video’s clips often, even daily, make it to the top trending lists of Sina Weibo, recent examples being the video about a pet dog killed by a local guard, a clip on pole-dancing girls at a Taiwanese official funeral, or the report about a man injured during the anti-Japanese protests of 2012.
Pear Video mainly focuses on society, entertainment, and tech news. Besides the more local news, Pear Video also reports on international news, such as developments regarding Trump and Jack Ma, or more marginal news that has become trending in Europe or America.
Pear Video currently has a fanbase of 340.000 on its official Weibo account, but since they are also active on WeChat, their own app, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media platforms, the company currently has a reach of millions – and is growing explosively.
The formula is clean and simple: Pear Video brings news in short edited clips, usually less than a minute, showing news footage and audio with bold captions that explain the background and news value often accompanied by music. The news is easy to digest, very contemporary, and with its trendy design is especially appealing to China’s younger generations.
BEHIND PEAR VIDEO
“The face of commercial media and the heart of Party media.”
In many ways, the launch of Pear Video is similar to the 2014 launch of The Paper, a newspaper directed at China’s younger generations. In 2015, Tabitha Speelman wrote about this new Chinese web-based media outlet in Foreign Policy, calling it a “smarter, sexier” form of state media that adhered to government calls for more “proactive” and “effective” ways of bringing news in a changing media environment.
David Bandurski, editor of the China Media Project, wrote an insightful piece about The Paper in 2016, in which he quoted former Southern Weekly journalist Fang Kecheng in saying that The Paper “has the face of commercial media, and the heart of Party media.”
Bandurski linked the launch of The Paper to China’s new “internet management path” that became apparent at the Wuzhen Summit. Unsurprisingly, its initial funding of 100 million RMB (±14M$) came from the Shanghai United Media Group (SUMG): a state-owned media group. “Propaganda 2.0”, is how the Economist called it.
Seeing the launch of The Paper in the same light as Pear Video – a fresh, new, cross-media 21st-century news platform – it seems that the two media platforms are walking a similar path in making China’s ‘official’ news more appealing to younger audiences.
But there is one slight difference. Although Pear Video’s team also comes from The Paper and from the state-run Shanghai United Media Group, its funding comes from China Media Capital (CMC), a private equity and venture capital firm headed by Li Ruigang. Although not state-owned, it is nevertheless a company that is also backed by the state.
In July of 2016, China’s media regulators called for a development of more powerful media organizations to make more of an impact, not just within but also outside of China, to compete with foreign ones. According to Patrick Frater (Variety 2016), the need for more influential media meant a growing government support for private-sector companies, like China Media Capital.
The establishment and rising popularity of Pear Video coincides with both the official call for more media giants – CMC financed Pear Video within months after this call – and the announcement of new media regulations on the sharing of ‘non-official’ news, after which the big state media outlets like People’s Daily (nearly 50 million followers on Weibo) also started sharing Pear News video on its official account on a daily basis.
Popular news accounts like Sina Video (@新浪视频) also shares their videos, and other short video news accounts such as Weila Video (@微辣Video) or Yishou Video (@一手视频) now seem to have merged with Pear Video and only post Pear Video content on their accounts, making their audience grow even bigger.
With so many official media sharing Pear Video content, and their videos making it to the Sina Weibo top trending lists on a daily basis, it is apparent that the Pear Video cross-media platform has the full support of China’s cyberspace authorities.
THE FUTURE OF CHINESE NEWS MEDIA
“This is the mobile social media generation that rather watches the news than read it – making short videos all the more influential.”
“Short news videos may be a new weapon in the spread of new media,” People’s Daily wrote in September of 2016, the month of Pear Video’s launch. The article notes that in the era of “mobile government”, the public has increasingly higher demands when it comes to taking in information.
“Simple information release no longer meets the needs of users”, the article says, advocating that media should adapt to a new audience that is mobile and wants to take in information through short, insightful videos.
Tsinghua University’s media specialists also stress the importance of short mobile videos for the future of media in China, as becomes apparent in a lecture that was also posted on the Chinese government website.
China’s younger generations are the mobile generation, the ‘bowed head clan‘ (smartphone addicts), who consume the news through their smartphone and are less inclined to watch television news.
They are also used to staying the same app to do multiple things; apps such as WeChat and Weibo are not just where they talk with friends, but also where they play games and watch the news – preferably served to them in short ‘bites.’
Furthermore, the lecture states, it is the mobile social media generation that rather watches the news than read it – making short videos all the more influential.
It is this audience that is the present-day and future media consumer of China. The widespread support for short video platforms like Pear Video and their explosive popularity shows that China’s future official media is mobile, short, and audiovisual. It has a fresh look and a clean layout – it is propagated news in your hands, just a click away. The rise of Pear Video just shows how juicy new Chinese media can be.
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References / Further Reading:
Bandurski, David. 2016. “Reading THE PAPER.” Medium / China Media Project (July 7) https://medium.com/china-media-project/reading-the-paper-d15ec241652f#.bu6wblsui [6.1.16].
Frater, Patrick. 2016. “China Wants More Media Giants.” Variety (July 18) http://variety.com/2016/biz/asia/china-wants-more-media-giants-1201816245/ [13.1.16].
Haas, Benjamin. 2016. “China restricts sharing of ‘unofficial’ videos on Social Media.” The Guardian (Dec 20) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/21/china-restricts-sharing-of-unofficial-videos-on-social-media [5.1.16].
Speelman, Tabitha. 2015. “Story image for looking for sexier state media? There’s an app for that.” Foreign Policy (Dec 15) http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/12/15/smarter-sexier-chinese-state-media-pengpai-paper/ [6.1.16].
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