China Bytes Vol. 3: Podcast super app, underdog city, robots army and Dao De Jing

Welcome to the third edition of the China Bytes Series, a biweekly guide including:

1) first-hand experience summary of what's trending in China's technology world; 
2) a deep-dive of China's most popular apps/products; 
3) timeless ancient Chinese wisdom you could apply to today.

I'm Camellia, founder of Y Media on a mission to accelerate ideas exchange beyond language and culture barriers.

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China Podcast Super App: Xiao Yu Zhou


While Apple, Spotify, and Google dominate the podcast industry in western countries, demand for Chinese content is quickly growing. With an over 1.4 billion population, this Chinese language speaking podcast market is worth watching.

According to the 2020 Chinese podcast listeners profile:

👀 To satisfy curiosity and learn new things is the number one (88.5%) reason for podcasting listening, followed by for hobby/interest (71.4%), and to learn practical knowledge/skills (47.8%).

🎧 While podcasting is a relatively new form of media in China, more than half (50.5%) respondents say they listen to podcasts every day.

🤓 88.5% of listeners are under age 35, while 86.4% hold a bachelor's degree or above.

❤️ 70.2% of respondents say they have spent less time on music, audiobooks, pay-for-knowledge and other audio content due to listening to podcasts.

💰 88.5% of respondents mentioned they had paid directly for content in the past.

💸 50.7% admit that a podcast show has influenced their purchase decisions.

Based on my observation as a Chinese podcaster, the most challenging part facing middle-class podcasters is monetization. Although listeners attitude toward podcast advertising (34.2% of respondents indicate “very supportive” and 53.6% indicate “supportive”) is positive, big brands are waiting to step into this space since there is no solid case study to prove it works. Indie brands could taste the water and benefit from it as early adopters.

During the national lockdown in China last year, a new podcast hosting platform called Xiao Yu Zhou (translated as Tiny Universe) has stood out. Since Chinese listeners have different needs and pain points when listening to podcasts, Xiao Yu Zhou designed its functions accordingly.

Here are the four major features from Xiao Yu Zhou:

1. Minimalist homepage design with three episode recommendation:

✂️ Less is more: Unlike Apple and Spotify's multiple and complex shows recommendation, Xiao Yu Zhou only promotes three episodes per day with a high-quality audience review. This mechanism will benefit new listeners who don't know which podcast to begin. Reading authentic reviews for each episode would be a good start point to begin the podcast journey.

2. Interactive podcast community

🗣️ Starting a conversation: Listeners can leave comments with timestamps, and others can join the conversation and interact with hosts and peers. This feature was first seen on YouTube, but Xiao Yu Zhou probably the first one to add this function to the podcast world(any IHers think it'd be a good feature for other podcast platforms?).

Six months after the launch, each user has left an average of 283 words of comments on the Xiao Yu Zhou app. All together contributed more than 5.2 million words.

3. A new way of discovering content and sharing

📊 Top charts feature: When you log into the Xiao Yu Zhou app, it will show you listen to the most and how many hours you listened. There is also a "Like progress bar" on each episode so you can see which part of the content gathered the most "likes". Xiao Yu Zhou also supports sharing comments as an image so your friends can scan the QR code straightway to follow the show.

4. Make your own podcast with a few steps

🎙️ Embrace the creator economy: Xiao Yu Zhou encourages listeners to make their podcast show and join the wave of creators' economy. Listeners can create their own show on the platform and get the chance to be recommended on the front page. Xiao Yu Zhou also serves as the marketplace for podcasts hosts to build up paid content and connect them with sponsors. There will be more business opportunities and features launching this year. Let's wait and see.

Three New Trends/Products


1. $8 billion e-commerce transactions from a tier 18 town in China

In China, a small town recently welcomed its overnight fame on Douyin(aka. Chinese TikTok) with 860 million views. Cao County, also known by its Chinese name #Caoxian, is a county in Shandong Province.

Chinese people say if Beijing and Shanghai are Tier 1 cities in China, Cao County would be Tier 18. Most mainlanders didn't even hear about Cao County until a local online influencer shared a funny video on Douyin.

And then, people realised that this tiny small town supplies more than 90% of the coffin in Japan and shares one-third of the entertainment production and cosplay industry in China.

According to the report, more than 55,000 online stores and 200,000 dedicated e-commerce entrepreneurs in Cao County contribute 51.6 billion RMB (8 billion USD) e-commerce transactions and attract 50,000 talent to return to their hometown to run online businesses in 2019. The governor of Cao County also ran her live streaming e-commerce channel to help sell costumes. Her fame brought her a 3,000 clothes record of sale in half an hour.

Cao County is an interesting case study of how a low-tiered town can compete with higher-tiered towns despite its size and resources. With the rapid digitalisation in China, many people choose to return home to start their online businesses rather than go to work in tier-one cities. In the western world, people are exiting SF to pursue secondary cities. Let's see what happened to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou on the China side.

2. Hello, Robots.

You might have heard about Atlas,Handle, and Spot from Boston Dynamics.

But have you met another famous robot called Daystar? Lenovo introduced its flagship robot Daystar last year. Now, many of them have already entered the labour market.

Daystar is equipped with efficient machine learning and cloud-based collaboration capabilities with flexible robotic arms. It looks like a cute little car and focuses on transforming industrial intelligence to solve problems such as carry boxes and paint aircraft.

The video shows seven DayStar robots perform different tasks in the same lab, including handling objects, sorting and inspecting documents and multi-tasking.

(Photo credit: Ifanr.com)

This week, we also saw another robot appear at The Qualcomm Technology and Collaboration Summit in Beijing. Orion Star, the leader of the serve robots company, showed the coffee master robot providing barrister coffee to event participants.

As more robots emerge in the Chinese market to replace human labours, we will definitely usher into a new age of robotics. Are you ready to see this coming?

3. China Social Media Landscape Cheat Sheet 2021

Ever want to have a clear overview of the Chinese social media landscape? Here is the latest version of all the major players in the market.

As mentioned in the China Bytes Vol, WeChat has become an all-in-one function in Chinese people's daily lives. But marketers also need to pay attention to other platforms when it comes to diversifying different channel messages.

(Download hss png picture here)

Ancient Chinese Wisdom


In his bestseller Tools of Titans, Tim Ferriss wrote that Dao De Jing (also translated as Tao Te Ching or The Book of the Way) is one of the most gifted or recommended books, based on his 200+ interviews with billionaires, icons, and world-class performers.

Here are the five things I learned from this 2,400-year-old book:

  1. All significant achievements start from small steps. Everyone has to start from scratch with one step by step to build up the foundations.

  2. Nature obeys laws, so do people. Everyone has to see through the reality and set up guiding principles to live their life to the full.

  3. Those who can understand others are smart, and those who can understand themselves are wise. Those who can conquer others are strong, and those who can overcome themselves are truly powerful.

  4. All things come to those who flow the way, as all wild streams and all unruly torrents drive eventually to great rivers and the sea.

  5. All things are neutral. Everything depends on our perspectives on this world. We could choose to fall into nihilism, or we could choose to make everything meaningful to ourselves.

Read more here

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