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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 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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China Digital

From Red Packet to Virtual Hongbao: Lucky Envelopes in China’s Digital Era

Raising virtual cows, shaking with phones – this is the Chinese New Year tradition of giving red envelopes in the digital era.

Things That Talk

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The custom of giving out red paper envelopes has evolved into a world of virtual lucky money and online games. This is the transformation of a Chinese New Year’s tradition, reported by Koen van der Lijn and Xiaojun Zhang.

 
When objects meet social media, two websites meet as well. This is a collaboration between What’s on Weibo and Things That Talk (follow on Insta @thingsthattalk).
 

Ever wanted to raise a digital cow? This year, you can raise your own lucky cow (福牛) for Chinese New Year on Weibo. Through maintaining and raising their virtual cow (or ox), users can participate in this online game to win red envelopes, a well-known and beloved tradition linked to Chinese New Year.

The hashtag “Lucky Cow’s New Year’s Travelogue” (#福牛新春旅行记#) is linked to Weibo’s celebration of Chinese Spring Festival and the Year of the Ox. Users are expected to be active on Weibo daily to raise their cow/ox, similar to the once so popular Tamagotchi. Whilst leveling up their cow, users get the possibility to earn digital red envelopes.

The online game is another development in the story of the red envelopes, known in China as hongbao (红包). Often given during Chinese New Year, the envelopes can also be given at other joyous occasions like weddings. These red envelopes are given to each other by friends and family members to wish each other a happy new year and are always filled with an amount of money.

Red envelopes for sale via Taobao.

The practice of giving money during Chinese New Year goes far back in Chinese history. The earliest form of the red envelope is said to be yasuiqian (压祟钱). In order to keep evil spirits away, called sui (祟), people put money underneath children’s pillow since the evil spirits were said to be warded off by coins.1 These coins were woven together using a string.

Yasuiqian

As time went by and paper money and envelopes became more widespread, string and coins were replaced and the red envelope was created.

Red envelopes are used by Chinese all over the world nowadays. The amount of money inside depends on many factors. Recently, the tradition has left behind its tangible form and entered the digital era.

 

“Adding the thrill of gambling to the practice of giving away red envelopes”

 

In 2014, the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat (微信) launched a new function that allowed users to send virtual red envelopes. Users could send an amount of money directly to another user, or an amount of red envelopes could be sent into a groupchat. When the function launched, users worldwide could shake their phones in order to receive free red envelopes. The amount of money that was given to users surpassed 500 million yuan ($77.5 million).

WeChat’s inventive idea put digital red envelopes on the map in China. During the peak of the event, 800 million shakes were recorded per minute. There were two types of envelopes introduced in 2014 by Tencent, the company that owns WeChat:

1. A regular red envelope that could be sent directly from one user to another.
2. A ‘group’ red envelope, with a limited number to be grabbed and a limited sum of money which can be grabbed by all users in a group if they are fast enough. The sum inside this envelope is randomized, adding the thrill of gambling to the practice of giving away red envelopes.

Other companies also wanted a piece of the digital red envelope cake: Weibo and AliPay combined their strengths a year after WeChat introduced its digital hongbao in order to promote their version of the digital red envelope.

A ‘war’ then broke out between the two companies. AliPay handed out 600 million renminbi ($93 million) worth of red envelopes as a response to WeChat’s 120 million envelopes sent out during the televised celebration of Chinese New Year.2

 

“Digital red envelopes can cross time and place, but cannot replace the method of face-to-face contact”

 

In the years after, the digital red envelope became more and more popular. Weibo and Alipay also came with their version of sending red envelopes online. The companies organized large-scale actions to make users make use of their form of digital red envelopes.

WeChat, for instance, gives users the option to make the red envelopes very personal through adding stickers and personal messages, making the digital red envelope an even more enjoyable experience.

Does this new development of the traditional red envelope make the tangible envelope obsolete?

When asked by the digital newspaper The Paper (澎湃新闻) about whether the digital red envelope might replace its tangible brother, scholar Tian Zhaoyuan (田兆元) of East China Normal University said that the digital red envelope can cross time and place, but cannot replace the method of face-to-face contact. Though friends and family may send one another digital red envelopes, it does not mean that it replaces the tangible red envelopes.3

The tradition of sending red envelopes is and will be inherently linked to Chinese New Year. Though both the paper and digital forms of the tradition remain incredibly popular, the virtual hongbao will definitely win territory once more this year as travel is restricted due to COVID-19. Especially in these times, the digital red envelope is the best digital way of wishing family and friends a happy new year.

Why are ‘lucky envelopes’ not just red, but sometimes also green or purple? Read more via Things That Talk here.

 
By Koen van der Lijn and Xiaojun Zhang

Koen van der Lijn (China Studies, BA) is a ResMa student Asian Studies at Leiden University focused on Chinese history and its international relations. He is a student ambassador at Things That Talk.

Xiaojun Zhang (China Studies, BA) is an MA student Asian Studies at Leiden University focused on contemporary Chinese culture, symbolism and food. For Things That Talk, she currently works on a project about Chinese-Indonesian restaurants in the Netherlands.

This story was made in collaboration with ThingsThatTalk.net – exploring humanities through the life of objects. Things That Talk is an educational digital project where staff and students produce narratives and metadata about objects in Leiden collections and beyond. Check out the story “Hongbao: from paper envelope to digital gift” on Things That Talk here!

 
Footnotes (other sources hyperlinked within the article)

1 Kin Wai Michael Siu. 2001. “Red Packet: a Traditional Object in the Modern World.” Journal of Popular Culture 35 (3), 103.
2 Chen, Liyan. 2015. “Red Envelope War: How Alibaba and Tencent Fight Over Chinese New Year.” Forbes, Feb 19 https://www.forbes.com/sites/liyanchen/2015/02/19/red-envelope-war-how-alibaba-and-tencent-fight-over-chinese-new-year/?sh=1b88bccccddd.
3 The Paper, Zuowei yi zhong “xinnian su”, weixin hongbao hui qudai zhizhi hongbao ma? 作为一种“新年俗”,微信红包会取代纸质红包吗?, https://cul.qq.com/a/20160208/012888.htm.

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©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Digital

Conversations Behind the Wall: Clubhouse App Now Blocked in China

While the Clubhouse app is no longer accessible from within the PRC, conversations continue behind the wall.

Manya Koetse

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The Clubhouse app became a hot topic among web users in mainland China this weekend. On Monday, the platform was no longer accessible from within the PRC.

On Saturday, we posted an article about the surge in popularity of American ‘drop-in audio chat’ social media platform Clubhouse in mainland China.

As conversations about the popular app continued throughout the weekend, the app was no longer accessible from within mainland China on Monday.

Clubhouse describes itself as “a space for casual, drop-in audio conversations—with friends and other interesting people around the world” where you can “go online anytime to chat with the people you follow, or hop in as a listener and hear what others are talking about.”

The app has virtual rooms and events themed around various topics – anything from politics to music – and lets hundreds of members join conversations as moderators, speakers, or listeners.

The Clubhouse app was developed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Paul Davison and ex-Google employee Rohan Seth. It was first launched in April 2020 on iOS only, and is still only accessible through iPhone for users who have an invite.

Before Monday, the Clubhouse app was freely accessible from within China for those people who had an invite, but only if they had access to the non-Chinese Apple store to download the app.

The app was a hot topic on various Chinese social media platforms this weekend. On Weibo, the civilized and open character of the Clubhouse conversations were praised, allowing a broader understanding of issues that otherwise remain untouched or are limited within the Chinese social media sphere.

One Chinese-language virtual room about the Xinjiang camps was joined by hundreds of people on Saturday. But besides the room focused on Xinjiang, there were also other rooms where discussions took place about the status of Hong Kong and about issues such as whether or not (overseas) Chinese are willing to return to the mainland and why.

“It is like a small crack in a window,” one person on Weibo said about Clubhouse, while others already predicted the app would become unavailable from within mainland China soon.

When it finally happened on Monday, the responses on Weibo were mainly those of disappointment. “Bye bye Clubhouse,” some Weibo users wrote, with others expressing their surprise: “What?! It was just popular for two days and it’s already blocked? They move so fast it’s scary.”

“I was active on Clubhouse for two days. I didn’t expect it to be shut down so soon already.”

Although many commenters previously expressed that they expected the app to become unavailable within the PRC, the fact that it was shutdown while it was just exploding online comes as a surprise to some, as various commenters write.

The term ‘Clubhouse’ was also temporarily blocked on Weibo by Monday night Beijing time; over the weekend various hashtags relating to the app made their rounds on Chinese social media, but the hashtag pages were no longer online by Monday evening.

‘Clubhouse’ no longer shows results on social media platform Weibo. Screenshot by What’s on Weibo.

Meanwhile, various Chinese-language rooms on Clubhouse discussed the topic of its disappearance in China.

A room titled “Clubhouse is blocked, and now?” was joined by over a hundred people on Monday night. The room “Clubhouse is blocked” attracted over 3000 participants. These conversations are likely to continue for the time to come, but now they must continue behind the Great Firewall of China.

By Manya Koetse

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.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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