YouTube vlogs, Musical.ly snippets, Instagram Stories, and other video capturing applications are nothing new around the world.
by Eugene Michaels
People do not seem to get enough of new and exciting ways to share their daily activities and talents with each other. However, such a craze does not only apply to the Western nations. For the past few years, a fast-growing social media activity has also been on a massive rise in China – live video streaming.
Over the past two years, more than 100 live streaming applications have popped up in the country, whereas the revenue of this massive market has been growing exponentially. Last year the overall market income was around US$3.3 billion and this year it has increased to over US$6.5 billion. As the overwhelming majority of the Chinese web users choose mobile phones over other devices for browsing the internet (up to 90%), phone-optimized services are naturally reaching all-time-high popularity.
For the viewers of the live streams, the fascination is unquestionable. You can spend hours upon hours watching a person with similar interests as you, talking and interacting with you, singing, acting, telling jokes, showing you their daily life. And no need to pay if you do not want to.
On the other side of the phone, the situation is a bit different. First of all, in the West, a lot of the video content creators are independent, and even if they have managers, there is a lot of creative freedom. However in China, due to the enormous competition, working with a live-streaming agency might be the only way to gain any recognition. Therefore, it being China, the contents of streams are unsurprisingly highly regulated not only by the agency but also the government. The agencies can tell their workers what to say, how to look, and how to act. The government also monitors all the videos put online and can decide to ban the streamer or shut down the whole agency or streaming platform if something does not align with their interests.
Still, the appeal of popularity and possibly high revenue (some of the top live streamers can earn tens of thousands of dollars per month) motivates many young Chinese to choose live streaming as their career path. However, as any other activity online, streaming your life to the world for hours each day also raises some issues – in privacy, safety, even health.
In the West, the legal system has already begun covering and managing the privacy troubles that live streaming may bring. For example, there is already a distinction between the private and commercial purposes of the live stream. If you are merely filming something exciting happening in the street for your social media profile and get other people in the shot, nobody will get angry, as you are not profiting from the video. However, once the money gets involved, the law joins in as well, as your live stream become a commercial product, just like any other advertisement on YouTube or TV.
Moreover, many vloggers and live streamers like making real-time videos while out and about. If the live stream is lasting for several hours, suddenly thousands of people can know where you are at the exact moment. Not only you but also everyone around you. Therefore, the best option is to film in a private space, be it an office or home – just to protect yourself and everyone else from getting exposed. Besides, you will not have to ask for consent from every single person in the area.
The Chinese seem to care less about the privacy and safety, but more about the contents of the live stream. Therefore, the authorities are actively monitoring the live streaming market. Regarding the content, nothing vulgar or obscene can be shown, and the videos should not go against the socialist values. Furthermore, the streamers have to register with their real names, self-censor their content before it is uploaded, and of course, they should not forget to provide morally enriching content.
Such regulations have tightened after several unfortunate incidents in the last years. For example, a gruesome death of a 26-year-old rooftop climber, who fell off a 62-floor skyscraper. His live stream was still going during the fall. Such incidents brought to light the extreme competition of the live streaming market, where streamers attempt to show more dangerous and more shocking content to raise the popularity of their video, and, consequently, gain more attention and more profits.
The live streaming business seems to be not all glamour and money. In China it requires hours upon hours of work and still, to stay on top one may be hindering their safety and privacy, just to create something worth seeing. And even then, all the work can be deleted in one sweep, together with your account, by the government.