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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.

Manya Koetse

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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

U.S. Embassy Launches WeChat Stickers Featuring Cartoon Eagle

A Weibo hashtag about the eagle stickers, that feature some phrases previously used by China’s Foreign Ministry, has now been taken offline.

Manya Koetse

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On January 30, the American Embassy in China announced the launch of its very own series of social media gifs, a special ’emoticon collection’ (表情包), featuring a little, somewhat silly cartoon eagle.

The U.S. Embassy launched the eagle series on WeChat and also announced the series on their Weibo account, writing that the eagle made its first public appearance in light of the festivities surrounding the Chinese New Year.

The eagle is called “Xiaomei” or “Little Mei” (鹰小美). The ‘mei’ is part of 美国 Měiguó, Chinese for the ‘United States,’ but měi also means beautiful and pretty.

The American embassy issued a total of 16 different animated stickers, and they’re intended to be used on Tencent’s WeChat, where users can download all kinds of different emoticons or stickers to use in conversations.

WeChat users often use many different animated stickers in conversations to express emotions, make jokes, or increase the festive mood (by sending out celebratory New Year’s or birthday etc gifs). Users can download new and preferred sticker packages through the app’s sticker section.

One sticker shows Xiaomei with a festive decoration with 福 () for blessing and prosperity, wishing everyone a happy start to the Chinese Lunar New Year. There are also stickers showing the texts “happy winter,” “hi,” and “thank you.”

Another sticker in the series that has triggered some online responses is one that shows the eagle with a surprised look, wiping its eyes, with the words “wait and see” written above. The Chinese expression used is 拭目以待 shìmù yǐdài, to eagerly wait for something to happen, literally meaning to wipe one’s eyes and wait.

This same expression was often used by the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian (赵立坚) during press conferences, and he also used it in 2022 when responding to questions related to Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taiwan and how the Chinese military would respond (e.g. he first used “wait and see” in the context of waiting to see if Pelosi would actually dare to go to Taiwan or not). But Zhao also used “please wait and see” (请大家拭目以待) when foreign reporters asked him how China would respond to the announced U.S. boycott of the Winter Olympics in 2021.

The Little Mei emoji triggered the most responses as some netizens felt it was meant as a sneer to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

One of Little Mei’s quotes is also “remain calm” (保持冷静 bǎochí lěngjìng), which was – perhaps coincidentally – also often used by Zhao in the context of the war in Ukraine and to refer to other international conflicts or tensions (“all parties should remain calm”). The animated sticker also has olive branches growing behind the eagle.

It recently became known that Zhao, who became known as the ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomat, was removed as the Foreign Ministry spokesperson and was moved to the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs.

Especially in the context of Zhao leaving his post, some wondered why the U.S. Embassy would use phrases related to his press conferences for their new emoticons.

Although some people suggested the WeChat stickers were not launched in China with good intentions, others appreciated the humorous visuals and felt it was funny. Some also joked that America was infiltrating Chinese social media with its cultural export (“文化输出”), and others wondered if they could not also introduce some other stickers with more Chinese Foreign Ministry popular phrases on them.

A hashtag related to the topic made its rounds on Weibo on Tuesday (#美驻华大使馆上线鹰小美表情包#), but the topic suddenly was taken offline on Tuesday evening local time, along with some of the media reports about the remarkable WeChat series.

The WeChat stickers are still available for downloading by scanning the QR code below through WeChat.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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China and Covid19

Video Shows Real-Time “Departure” Information Board at Chinese Crematorium

From “cremation in process” to “cooling down,” the digital display shows the progress of the cremation to provide information to those waiting in the lobby. The crematorium ‘departure’ board strikes a chord with many.

Manya Koetse

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A video showing a live display screen announcing the names and status of the deceased at a Yunnan crematorium has been making its rounds on Chinese social media, from WeChat to Weibo, where one version of the video received over 1,7 million views.

Somewhat similar to a real-time platform departure display on train stations, the screen shows the waiting number of the deceased person, their name, gender, the name of the lounge/room (if any) for families, the name of the crematorium chamber, and the status of the cremation process. Below in the screen, it says “the final journey of a warm life” (温暖人生的最后旅程).

For example, the screen displays the names of a Mr. Chen and a Mr. Li; their bodies were in the process of being cremated (火化中), while other cremations were marked as “completed” (完成) or “cooling down” (降温中).

Through such a screen, located in the crematorium lobby, family members and loved ones can learn about the progress of the cremation of the deceased.

The video, recorded by a local on Jan. 7, received many comments. Among them, some people commented on the information board itself, while others simply expressed grief over those who died and the fragility of life. Many felt the display was confronting and it made them emotional.

“It makes me really sad that this how people’s lives end,” one commenter said, with another person replying that the display also shows you still need to wait in line even when you’re dead.

“I didn’t expect the screens [in the crematorium] to be like those in hospitals, where patients are waiting for their turn,” another Weibo user wrote. “It would be better if the names were hidden, like in the hospitals, to protect the privacy of the deceased,” another person replied.

Others shared their own experiences at funeral parlors also using such information screens.

Another ‘departure display’ at a Chinese crematorium, image shared by Weibo user.

“My grandfather passed away last September, and when we were at the undertaker’s, the display was also jumping from one name to the other and we could only comfort ourselves knowing that he was among those who lived a relatively long life.”

“Such a screen, it really makes me sad,” another commenter from Guangxi wrote, with others writing: “It’s distressing technology.”

Although the information screen at the crematorium is a novelty for many commenters, the phenomenon itself is not necessarily related to the Covid outbreak and the number of Covid-related deaths; some people share how they have seen them in crematoriums before, and funeral parlor businesses have used them to provide information to families since at least 2018.

According to an article published by Sohu News, more people – especially younger ones – have visited a funeral home for the first time in their lives recently due to the current Covid wave, also making it the first time for them to come across such a digital display.

The online video of such an information board has made an impact at a time when crematoriums are crowded and families report waiting for days to bury or cremate their loved ones, with especially a large number of elderly people dying due to Covid.

On Jan. 4, one social media user from Liaoning wrote:

I really suggest that the experts go to the crematoriums to take a look. There is no place to put the deceased, they’re parked outside in temporary containers, there’s no time left to hold a farewell ceremony and you can only directly cremate, and for those who were able to have a ceremony, they need to finish within ten minutes (..) At the funeral parlor’s big screen, there were eight names on every page, and there were ten pages for all the people in line that day, I stood there for half an hour and didn’t see the name of the person I was waiting for pop up anymore.”

As the video of the display in the crematorium travels around the internet, many commenters suggest that it is not necessarily the real-time ‘departure’ board itself that bothers them, but how it shows the harsh reality of death by listing the names of the deceased and their cremation status behind it. Perhaps it is the contrast between the technology of the digital display boards and the reality of the human vulnerability that it represents that strikes a chord with people.

One blogger who reposted the video on Jan. 13 wrote: “Life is short, cherish the present, let’s cherish what we have and love yourself, love your family, and love this world.” Among dozens of replies, some indicate that the video makes them feel uncomfortable.

Another commenter also wrote:

I just saw a video that showed an electronic display at a crematorium, rolling out the names of the deceased and the stage of the cremation. One name represents the ending of a life. And it just hit me, and my tears started flowing. I’m afraid of parting, I’m afraid of loss, I just want the people I love and who love me to stay by my side forever. I don’t want to leave. I’m afraid I’ll be alone one day, and that nobody will ever make me feel warm again.”

One person captured why the information board perhaps causes such unease: “The final moments that people still spent on this earth take place on the electronic screen in the memorial hall of the funeral home. Then, they are gone without a sound.”

 

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By Manya Koetse 
with contributions by Zilan Qian

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.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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