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The Rise of Pear Video (梨视频): Making Short News Videos Trending on Chinese Social Media

Pear Video (梨视频) is the new kid on the block in the pool of China’s many digital news platforms.

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Pear Video (梨视频) is the new kid on the block in the pool of China’s many digital news platforms. Its rise is noteworthy as it comes at a time when authorities are strengthening regulations on the media sharing ‘non-official’ news videos. Does Pear Video show the way China’s new media is going?

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.

On Sina Weibo, Pear Video broadcasts its videos through short-video app Miaopai, that partnered up with Weibo in 2013 for easy audiovisual content sharing on the Sina platform.

 

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.

People’s Daily now posts Pear Video news content 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.

– By Manya Koetse
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Many thanks to those providing input on this article.
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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].

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Digital

Uh Oh, IP: Chinese Social Media Platforms Now Display Users’ Geolocation

From Weibo to Zhihu, Chinese social media platforms now display netizens’ geolocation to ensure a ‘healthy online environment.’

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Over the past few days, Chinese social media platforms have started to introduce a new function that displays the IP location of online commenters.

Weibo was the first platform to introduce the function on Thursday – the topic also became top trending on April 28 – and social media platforms Douyin, Toutiao, Xiaohongshu and others followed later. Zhihu announced the measure on April 30 (#知乎宣布全面上线显示用户IP属地#).

Weibo has experimented with the function since March 22 of this year before completely rolling it out on April 28. Whenever users post a reply or comment to a thread, their Internet Protocol (IP) address location will be displayed underneath their comment, right next to the post date and time information. The location will also be displayed on the personal account page of Weibo users.

According to Sina Weibo, the function was introduced to ensure a “healthy and orderly discussion atmosphere” on the platform and to reduce the spread of fake news and invidious rumors by people pretending to be part of an issue or city that they are actually not part of. To keep online discussions “authentic and transparent,” social media users’ specific region, city, province, or country will show up below their names. The function can not be turned off by users.

‘Refuting rumors’ is a priority for Weibo management and has only become more relevant during the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak in China and the recent Shanghai outbreak.

On Saturday, the hashtag “What Does It Mean That Platforms Are Unrolling the IP Function?” (#平台开放IP属地功能意味着什么#) was trending on Weibo, attracting over 170 million views.

The new measure has attracted mixed reactions on Chinese social media, where some users think it is useful that you can now discern users located abroad from those who are based in China, making it easier to draw conclusions on what is really going on in society (you can now spot trends that are particularly taking place within one region) and what is merely taking place in cyberspace.

But there are many users who think the new function is just another layer of control and does not really help to combat fake news or malicious rumors, since the IP location could actually still be changed.

Although the entire idea of displaying the IP location is to minimize the gap between cyberspace and reality based on one’s location, the location is merely the geographic location of the internet from the connected device and does not always correspond with the actual location of the social media user.

Once a person is connected to a Virtual Private Network (VPN), for example, internet traffic is sent through a server in another location, and the IP address will be replaced by the IP address of the VPN server in a different location from people’s actual address.

Some Weibo account are also not run by the persons themselves but by a social media or marketing company.

In this way, Bill Gates unexpectedly turned out to be located in Henan province, and Lionel Messi’s location showed up as Shanghai.

Others think that the new rule will only lead to more online polarization and self-censorship: “Who made this unsettling decision?! From now on, Chinese nationals who are studying or living abroad will be extra extra careful in what they write, otherwise, they’ll be labeled as ‘foreign forces.'”

Some people joked about the new function revealing their location, writing: “It made me so embarrassed. I’m pretending to be studying in the UK, while I’m actually in the mountains feeding the pigs.” Others were also surprised that their IP location was completely different from the place where they are actually living: “Weibo, what are you doing? I’ve never even been to Jilin,” one commenter wrote.

According to an online poll held by Fengmian News, 56% of the participants (nearly 300,000 at time of writing) said they supported the new function. 21% did not like the function, 17% said they did not care, and 6% were just curious to see their own IP location and if it matches their actual location.

“I’m gonna go and delete my more extreme comments,” one person wrote: “I don’t wanna give my hometown a bad reputation.”

Global Times commentator Hu Xijin (胡锡进) also gave his views on the new measure, saying that people’s viewpoints and values will always be more important than where they come from, and that all friends of China matter, no matter where they are based. However, he argued, it is also good to know where those who openly express anti-Chinese sentiments come from, exposing those ‘evil foreign force’ who are trying to disrupt social cohesion within the country.

Noteworthy enough, Hu Xijin’s own IP location was not displayed on his Weibo account, as some celebrities seem to have been excluded from this measure or can decide themselves whether or not they would like to display their IP location or not.

One Weibo user wrote: “Twitter can follow its own regulations in banning Trump, while Weibo can transcend its own regulations and not show Hu Xijin’s IP location.”

For recent articles Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China and Covid19

‘Voices of April’: The Day After

“The best way to make videos go viral is by censoring them.”

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On April 23, a day after the video ‘Voices of April’ briefly took over social media before it was censored, the trending topic of the day is a hashtag related to new Covid cases reported in Shanghai.

Shanghai reported higher Covid-19 cases and deaths on Friday than the five days prior, which showed a daily decline in new cases. Shanghai reported a total of 23,370 new cases (including 20,634 asymptomatic ones), the municipal health commission said Saturday. A related hashtag by Xinhua News received over 910 million views on Weibo on Saturday (#上海新增本土确诊2736例无症状20634例#).

Although the hashtag was initiated by state media to inform about the Shanghai Covid situation, netizens started using it to criticize Shanghai’s handling of the crisis, with more commenters questioning China’s zero-Covid strategy. Similarly, other state media-initiated hashtag places also became online spaces where Weibo users vented their frustrations earlier this month.

Besides the ongoing online criticism and vocal disagreement with China’s Covid handling and policies, there are also many who express shock at the recent crackdown of any form of protest or criticism regarding the situation in Shanghai.

“‘Voices of April’ has been shutdown all over the internet, I’m simply dumbfounded,” one person said about the popular video that contained real recordings of events that happened during the city’s lockdown.

“If you still can find the video anywhere, forward it,” another person writes.

Besides Voices of April (四月之声), there have also been other videos over the past week that are meant to expose the mishandling of the Covid situation in Shanghai.

One of them is titled Farewell, Language (再见语言), another one is Shanghai Late Spring (上海晚春).

Farewell, Language (再见语言) is a 42-second sound art video by artist Yang Xiao (杨潇), who used over 600 commonly used propaganda phrases from Chinese official channels and randomly broadcasted the audio in the community where he lives.

The anti-epidemic workers just continue their work and do not seem to notice anything out of the ordinary at all. The video shows how this kind of language has been so normalized that for most, it has just become background noise in their everyday life – without even noticing nor critically assessing its meaning or logic anymore.

The Shanghai Late Spring (上海晚春) video is a compilation of video footage from the Shanghai lockdown, showing people struggling to get food, violent altercations between anti-epidemic workers and residents, people living in deplorable conditions in quarantine centers, and more (link to video).

The video uses the song Cheer Up London by Slaves, its chorus being:

You’re dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead
.”

One Weibo commenter responded to the video in English, using a text from Les Misérables: “Do you hear the people sing / Singing the song of angry men / It is the music of a people / Who will not be slaves again!” The phrase “do you hear the people sing” was also used by other social media users to address the situation in Shanghai and the censorship of related topics.

“The best way to make videos go viral is by censoring them,” one commenter replied.

Read our previous article about ‘Voices of April’ here.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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