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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.
Any remarks or ideas about this article? Please leave a comment.
What’s on Weibo is an independent blog. Want to donate? You can do so here.

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.

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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In China’s “Kua Kua” Chat Groups, People Pay to Be Praised [Updated]

Money can’t buy you love, but in these ‘kua kua’ groups, they can buy you praise.

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Image via hexun.com.

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Social media is often called a battlefield, but in these Chinese WeChat ‘Kua kua’ groups (夸夸群), people will praise you no matter what you do or say.

A new phenomenon has become a hot topic on Chinese social media these days. ‘Kua kua’ groups (夸夸群) are chat groups where people share some things about themselves – even if they are negative things – and where other people will always tell them how great they are, no matter what.

Kua kua groups (夸 ‘kuā‘ literally means ‘praise’) have become all the rage in China. People seem to love them for the mere fact that it makes them feel good about themselves.

The format is clear. Person A tells about something that is on their minds, and asks people for positive feedback. Person B, C, and D will then come forward and tell them how good or pretty they are, sometimes based on their profile photo.

One could say: “Hi everyone, I’ve just turned down a job offer, but now my future is full of uncertainty, please compliment me.” Then people in the chat group will respond and say things such as: “You look like the type of person who knows exactly what they want.”

The Kua kua praise group phenomenon allegedly began within the online community of Xi’an Jiaotong University – although some claim it was Shanghai’s Fudan University – when one person asked others in a chat group to compliment them. The idea started to compliment and praise others, and so a trend was born; first, in university (BBS) chat groups, and now on WeChat and beyond the realm of universities.

The phenomenon has been around for at least six years, but only recently started gaining widespread attention on Chinese social media. According to China’s Toutiao News, virtually every college now has its own ‘praise group.’

But the praise does not always come for free. Although many (college-based) chat groups are free to join, people who want to be complimented and are not yet a member of an existing group can join Kua kua groups when they pay for it. On Chinese e-commerce platform Taobao, there are various online shops that sell a ‘Praise group’ membership starting from 50 yuan ($7,5) per person, going up to 188 yuan ($28).

The time of praise is limited to five minutes unless you pay more. The quality of the compliments you’ll be getting also depends on how much you pay. Some groups allegedly consist of “students of great talent,” and the number of people complimenting one person could reach up to 500 people.

The contents of the praise could literally be anything. A simple “I want to be praised” comment could get a variety of reactions from “your hat looks nice” to “the fact that you’re so honest and straightforward about what you want is something that is hard to come across in this day and age,” to “you used a period mark [at the end of your sentence], you must be someone who is very persistent in reaching your goals.”

The fact that the “Kua kua” phenomenon is such a success in China might relate to its culture, where humility and modesty are considered ideal in day-to-day communications. When given a compliment, it is common in China to deny it or to suggest that the person giving the compliment is much better than they are (also see Cheng 2003, 30).

These chat groups, however, break away from the dominant cultural interactions: people don’t have to be polite in responding to the compliments and can wallow in the praise they paid for.

Although not as big as the “Kua Kua” group phenomenon, these kinds of groups also exist in the English-language social media sphere. On Reddit’s “Toast Me” page, for example, there are some 92,000 subscribers participating in asking and giving positive feedback to others, albeit unpaid.

The people giving compliments in the Chinese Kua kua groups are random people, some students, some staff of Taobao stores, who get hongbao, red envelopes with digital money gifts, for contributing to the group. According to some reports, some ‘customers’ end up staying the group and become a part of the team themselves.

We will follow up on this later: we booked a ‘five-minute praise session’ ourselves, but are still awaiting admission to the group…

 

Update: Our Kua Kua Experience

 

So what is the Kua kua experience like? We decided to try out for ourselves and purchased a 5-minute praise session through Taobao for 50 yuan ($7,5) from a seller that had a good rating.

After the purchase is completed, the seller will contact you with details asking for your WeChat ID. After adding, they will ask you what your ‘problem’ or issue is, and you will be put in a virtual queue until your turn comes up to be praised.

You’ll then be added to a WeChat group that has your name in the headline (ours was something like “Manya you can do it”) and that has around 200 participants.

The message posted by us was:

Hello, I’m Manya (Dutch). I’ve been studying Chinese for more than ten years. In fact, I’m afraid to say it may even be more than 13 years, but I still often don’t understand what Beijing taxi drivers are saying. Even studying every day won’t help. I’ve been learning for so many years, yet I often still don’t understand what the old people in Beijing are saying. It’s a bit embarrassing. I think my Chinese is still not good enough. I can’t understand the ‘crosstalk’ [comedy sketches] during the Spring Festival Gala at all. It makes me feel a little dispirited.

Within a matter of seconds, the screen then just fills up with positive feedback and emoji. There are dozens of comments, and they almost go too fast to read them all.

Some of the responses:

You’re great, and even I don’t understand Beijing taxi drivers.

Stay confident in yourself!

You’re so cool.”

You can type so many Chinese characters, who’d say your Chinese is not good enough?!

Manya, you’re so fantastic.”

None of us understand what old people in Beijing are saying.

Chinese is just not easy to study, the fact that you’ve been doing it for so long already shows how great you are.”

It’s incredible that you’ve already come this far.”

A woman who is so motivated about studying really moves me, you’re my role model, you make me want to study more English.”

During the praise session, the group leader will occasionally post a hongbao [envelope with money] for the participants to receive in return for their compliments.

After five minutes, the session ends, and the people will send out some last words of encouragement. The group leader will personally thank you for being part of the group, and later, you’ll be removed from the group as the people will move on to the next person who is waiting in line to be praised.

How does it feel to be praised by some 200 people, receiving hundreds of compliments? It’s overwhelming, and even though you know it’s all just an online mechanism, and that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you say, it still makes you glow a little bit inside.

Although some experts quoted by Chinese state media warn people not to rely on these praise groups too much, there does not seem to be much harm in allowing yourself to be complimented for some minutes from time to time.

Other people reviewing the same Kua kua group apparently feel the same: “I’m super satisfied, the result is amazing.”

By Manya Koetse  and Miranda Barnes

Featured image via hexun.com.

References

Cheng, Winnie. 2003. Intercultural Communication. Amsterdam, John Benjamins Publishing.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Youth Federation: Ban Minors from Live Streaming Platforms

If implemented, this would mean a big blow to China’s live streaming market.

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More than 45% of Chinese live stream users are minors. A new proposal by the China Youth Federation wants to ban those under the age of 18 from broadcasting in China’s booming live streaming environment.

Chinese minors will no longer be able to do live streaming if it is up to the All-China Youth Federation (ACYF, 中国青联). The China Youth Federation submitted the proposal during the Two Sessions (Lianghui), China’s largest annual legislative meetings.

The China Youth Federation is an organization to represent China’s youth groups founded in 1949, that has the Communist Youth League of China as its core.

China’s live streaming market is booming. Sina News reports that some 425 million netizens used live streaming platforms in 2018. According to the Online Information Center of the Communist Youth League, Chinese minors are particularly active live streamers: 6.4% of live stream users are primary school students, 18.3% of them are junior high school students and 20.3% are senior high schoolers.

There are dozens of live streaming platforms in China, with this list of apps, including the short video & live stream platforms Douyin and Kuaishou, being among the most popular ones. If the law would be implemented, China’s thriving live streaming market would certainly suffer a big blow.

Earlier this week, Sixth Tone already reported that “protecting minors online” would be among one of the important themes discussed by tech leaders at the Two Sessions.

On Saturday, March 9, the hashtag “Proposal to Ban Minors from Engaging in Livestreaming” (#建议禁止未成年人担任网络主播#) [basically meaning “prohibiting minors from being online hosts”] became top trending on Weibo, attracting more than 180 million views. Various Chinese state media sources state that the live streaming industry is in “a state of chaos” and needs stricter control to protect minors, who could easily come into contact with “vulgar” and “inappropriate” content through live streaming platforms.

The ban could be realized by implementing stricter controls on the registration process of China’s various live-streaming networks. This could suggest that the measures would go beyond minors just being banned from live streaming themselves.

“I support this proposal, live streaming platforms are not appropriate for minors,” a popular comment said, with many Weibo users agreeing: “Young people should focus on their schoolwork instead.”

But not everyone agrees with stricter controls on China’s online platforms. One commenter wrote: “Officials can have multiple wives, rich people have multiple women, yet if common people watch live streams where some vulgar language or sensitive content occasionally pops up, then it’s not allowed.”

“What should be banned is vulgar content, not minor users,” others write.

Earlier this week, Beijing News reported that Yan Xiaohong (阎晓宏), director of the Chinese Copyright Association, also submitted a proposal relating to minors using the internet. Yan’s proposal goes much further than that of the ACYF: he suggests that special online platforms should be developed for minors, and argues that it is not good for China’s youth to be able to access the same online content as adults.

By Manya Koetse 

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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