Young Chinese Turn to Online Streaming to Earn Money

    16 August 2023

    Many young Chinese are increasingly turning to online streaming as a way to earn money while selling products for major companies.

    The job involves livestreaming on popular social media services in China. A person leading such livestreams is known as a host. The goal is to persuade users to spend money with large brands such as Under Armor, Lancome, YSL Beauty and Hugo Boss.

    One such streamer is 28-year-old Zhang Jinyu, a former model who studied fashion in college. She told reporters from Reuters news agency she has already completed hundreds of hours of live streams to publicize products for YSL Beauty and other brands.

    A host promotes a bag during a live stream at luxury e-commerce platform ZZER in Shanghai, China July 5, 2023. (REUTERS/Xihao Jiang)
    A host promotes a bag during a live stream at luxury e-commerce platform ZZER in Shanghai, China July 5, 2023. (REUTERS/Xihao Jiang)

    Zhang's livestreams can involve her continuously speaking on camera for up to six hours. In addition, the preparation process requires her to do her hair and makeup and spend time recording sales results after her online broadcasts have ended.

    Reuters reports that Zhang is one of millions of young Chinese currently facing record youth unemployment of more than 21 percent. Livestreaming sales is one way social media users can earn money without having to get a full-time job.

    "For livestreaming, the threshold to enter the industry is very low,” Zhang said. “I can pick up my phone and I'm livestreaming.” She noted, however, that livestream selling is now very competitive, making it difficult for newcomers to gain a following. "If you can persevere, you can get better and better,” Zhang said.

    Zhang is not alone in her desire to make livestream hosting a career. A recent public opinion study asked more than 10,000 young people on China’s social media service Sina Weibo how they feel about the issue. More than 60 percent said they would be interested in working as an internet influencer or livestreaming host.

    A study by China-based marketing agency iResearch found the livestreaming industry employed more than 1.2 million hosts as of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic helped lead livestreaming sales growth that brought in about $480 billion in China last year.

    That growth led to a series of agencies being created that aim to train new hosts and connect them with established brands.

    Zhang, for example, works with Shanghai-based agency Romomo. The company is a business partner of Buy Quickly, which helps hosts link up with major fashion-centered brands.

    Shining Li is vice president of Romomo. She told Reuters she thinks livestreaming is currently “one of the most important methods of communication” for the international brands she works with.

    Shi Jianing is a 28-year-old livestreaming host. She says her broadcasts are a good way for her to build lasting relationships with followers and increase sales for the brands she represents.

    "We're like friends with the consumers," Shi said. She added, “If you can communicate with some personal affinity, that builds a kind of trust, and that relationship makes the consumer want to carry out the sale."

    I’m Bryan Lynn.

    Reuters reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    stream – v. to play a presentation, show or movie over the internet

    brand – n. a kind of product made by a particular company under a particular name

    fashion – n. the business of creating and selling clothes in new styles

    threshold – n. the level at which something starts to happen

    persevere – v. to continue to try to do something even though it can be difficult

    consumer – n. someone who buys or uses goods or services

    affinity – n. an attraction to or liking for something