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New video format generates huge profits for influential vloggers, equipment makers and platforms

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2019-01-09 15:32:12Global Times Editor : Mo Hong'e ECNS App Download
Manjiang seen in a vlog showing her daily life in California. (Photo /Global Times)

Manjiang seen in a vlog showing her daily life in California. (Photo /Global Times)

Vlog, or video blog, has become a new trend among Chinese online celebrities recently, with many of them trying out the form of sharing daily lives to be more attached to their followers. While "normal people" are also ramping up efforts to accumulate popularity, in a bid to gain an early foothold in the booming industry. Moreover, eyeing the business opportunities, Chinese companies such as Tencent have also established new video platforms to attract vloggers, and equipment manufacturers also see their profits in the sector. It looks like a win-win business models for all involved.

Molly Xu, a Guangzhou-based 26-year-old independent cosmetics blogger, has just finished a week-long trip in Beijing. While for Xu, travel is not the main purpose, she wanted to record more clips of her daily life, then edited her first vlog, hoping this could be a "grand opening" of her vlogger career.

Xu also went to a ski resort during her trip, a last minute additional visit, added after she found her existing materials were not interesting enough for a five-minute video.

"Many fashion bloggers around me have taken to vlogging since the beginning of last year. A friend of mine saw the number of her followers on Weibo [China's twitter-like platform] increasing by 10,000 a month after publishing her first vlog. So, why not?" Xu told the Global Times on Monday.

Li Wei, chief operating officer and vice chairman of video-hosting site Bilibili.com, said that amount of vlog submissions for the platform in 2018 increased by 16 times year-on-year, and views for vlogs have increased by 18 times, adding that vlog will be a very significant content carrier for the platform in the future, accordng to a report from WeChat account tosansheng.

Vlog, otherwise known as video blog, has a rather vague definition, and is not just limited to those who have already gained some popularity. Contents of vlogs could be a day in school life, how to plan a trip with parents, a normal day of hanging out with friends, or an adventurous trip to the DPRK.

"It's a unique form of documenting my life's events," Manjiang, a US-based part-time blogger, told the Global Times on Tuesday. She currently works as a tech recruiter in the Bay Area and started vlogging her daily life less than half a year ago. "I enjoy being a vlogger the most when I have a fulfilling life, and I think having another career that I love equally is a good way to keep my life balanced," she said. 

Vlog as a video format has proven quite successful on Youtube for several years, while it is just starting to gain momentum in China. 

According to data from Baidu, from June to December in 2018, the search index of the word vlog surged by 198 percent compared with the same period a year before.

"Vlog, which is often five to 10 minutes long, is more personal, and requires its creators to have multiple skills including editing, filming and performing, thus having a relatively higher requirement than short or micro videos," Jiang Hao, an industry player, told the Global Times over the weekend.

Jiang said that with the push of different video platforms, this year might see a further boom in the vlog industry, both in terms of vloggers and vlog platforms.

More players

Apart from the active response from content creators, domestic market players are accelerating their business layout in the sector, and trying to purchase more interesting content from those who show potential.

In September 2018, Weibo launched a vlog event, saying that those who had posted more than four vlogs with a length more than one minute in the past 30 days, could be verified as vlogger, and receive more exposure on Weibo.  

In December, Bilibili.com launched a "30-day vlog challenge" to encourage creators and promote the video format. 

Moreover, platforms such as Tencent-invested Yoo video, a platform for video publishing, including vlogs, and Onetake, have also gained an early foothold in the sector.

Yoo video also offered subsidies for vloggers on its platform. An industry insider told the Global Times over the weekend that a vlogger could get at least 2,000 yuan($291.92) after publishing a vlog on the platform. The specific amount of the subsidy is dependent on the quality of the video.

With these strong incentives, more people have joined these platforms.

"I'm too late. It [Yoo video] is already jam-packed, the platform no longer welcomes bloggers with few followers like myself, so it is only open to online celebrities with great influence now," Xu said.

Having already missed the chance to apply for a place on the Yoo video, Xu is eyeing a new vlog platform called "howtoo." "It's not launched yet, but I've already signed up for an account there to ensure a place," Xu told the Global Times.

Business opportunities

Unlike Xu, some early starters in the sector have already seen real profits from the new video format. A Beijing-based vlogger surnamed Huang, who is also a blogger on social media and e-commerce platform Xiaohongshu, told the Global Times on Sunday that previously, her income was mainly from advertisements of cosmetics brands, but after vlogging for nearly half a year, some clothes brands, or even food producers have come to her for cooperation.

"The number of my followers, as well as interactions with them, are increasing, and they would ask me in the comments column about the clothes I was wearing in that specific vlog, and some were even curious about a snack I put on the corner of the desk," Huang told the Global Times.

Huang has over one million followers on her Weibo account and is verified as an cosmetics vlogger. 

"In December last year, I saw my income had increased by almost 10 percent compared with that of in November. The money could support me to have a good life, or even a luxury life in some people's eyes," Huang added, without disclosing the exact number.

Cooperation between vloggers and brands are becoming more frequent, according to the the tosansheng report, as more brands are gradually becoming aware of the business value in the vlog industry. Major brands such as Louis Vuitton, Peacebird and phonemaker OPPO have already cooperated with some influential vloggers to promote and advertise their products. 

The 18-year-old female actress Ouyang Nana is a typical beneficiary. By sharing her student life in Berklee College of Music in her vlog, Ouyang Nana, who had long been criticised for poor acting, has gained increasing popularity, and also made the video format more famous domestically. Her latest vlog titled "how to make a vlog" has received more than 4.55 million views on Weibo.

Neitizens said vlogs help them find out a "real and cute nana," instead of a nana as a celebrity and actress.

According to media reports, vlogs have doubled Ouyangnana's online media exposure index, and also attracted other actors to participate in the industry.

The booming industry has also driven the sales of vlog equipment manufactures like Shenzhen-based DJI. 

The company told the Global Times on Monday that thanks to the increasing numbers of vlog lovers, sales of its handheld camera stabilizer, also known as a "must-buy" for vloggers, has greatly increased since January 2018. 

Its Osmo pocket series stabilizer has been in short supply since December's launch last year, and the company is expanding its production capacity to meet the surging market demand, DJI said.

Winner-take-all

However, Jiang cautioned that for now, dividends only go to those influential vloggers, while most small bloggers may hardly receive anything - thus they can only take volgging as a part-time job, rather than a full-time career.  

"Further, there are few ways to directly generate income from the content, so it is difficult for ordinary content creators to have enough income to support creation. Some platforms will also share part of blogger's advertisement income, making it more difficult for vloggers," Jiang said.

Zhuzi, a vlogger who had over 2 million followers on Weibo, also expressed concerns, claiming that most content creators could hardly support themselves if solely relying on the income from vlogging. 

"The difficulty is that good content takes time to prepare. Even if it's only a two-minute video, vloggers would take several hours or even days to prepare," she noted.

Only with more support for independent content creators, could a platform, and the industry as a whole, achieve long-term success and create good content, according to Zhuzi.

While experts noted that these problems will not hinder vlog from becoming a hot topic this year. With the commercialization of 5G, vlog will only become more popular. 

"2019 will be a great year for vlog," Jiang said.

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