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【经济学人】全民直播| 取经号






本文选自 The Economist

译者:杨    阳



Life is but a stream


A new way of bringing colour to dreary lives


LAST YEAR ZHAO XINLONG, aged 25, and his wife and baby boy moved from his parents’ farm into a mid-rise apartment in town. It has been a tough adjustment. Luan County is a rustbelt community on the polluted outskirts of the steel city of Tangshan in north-east China. Mr Zhao’s monthly income from driving a taxi has plummeted by more than half in the past couple of years, and he has not found it easy to make friends in his new abode.


But when he gets online in the evening, he becomes a different person: Zhao Long’er, an entertainer. Using Kuaishou, a Chinese video-sharing and live-streaming app, he broadcasts to a live audience of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of fellow Chinese every night. Taken together, they add up to more than 100,000. Many of them are diaosi, people who mockingly identify themselves as losers in dead-end jobs. Online he can relate to them, telling them stories, dirty jokes, whatever is on his mind.

但是到了晚上,赵新龙摇身一变,成为化名“赵龙儿”(音译)的网红。利用视频分享和直播软件 “快手”,他每晚会对着数百名观众直播,有时观众可达数千人。他的观众加起来有十万多人,其中大多是“屌丝”(很多工作没有前途、认为自己很失败的人会用这个称呼自嘲)。“赵龙儿”跟他们脾气相投,给他们讲故事,讲黄段子,想到什么说什么。

Occasionally advertisers pay him small sums to put commercials out over his stream, including things like weight-loss products and “gold” jewellery from Vietnam. Most of his followers are also from north-east China. They chat with him online and sometimes give him digital stickers representing things like a beer that fans buy online and can be converted into cash. The individual amounts are usually small, but they add up. Live-streaming his life earns Mr Zhao about $850 a month, twice as much as his day job.


Twinkle, twinkle, little stars


The internet has amplified people’s interest in the world’s biggest stars, helping their fans feel a little closer to them, thanks to social media. But it has also made it possible for anybody to become a little star in their own corner of the universe, connecting intimately with subsets of fans. In much of the rest of the world the most popular of these are teen idols on YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. Most people over 25 would struggle to name a YouTube star other than possibly PewDiePie, a Swedish gamer with a global following of more than 50m.


China’s craze for personal live-streaming runs far deeper, into third-tier cities and remote rural areas where the internet is the one and only fun and cheap place to hang out. These personal broadcasts are not simply videos that fans watch, but more interactive experiences. The fans make requests, chat with their idols and give them virtual gifts. Many of those watching are small-time live-streamers themselves. They are turning each other into mass entertainment.


It is a big and growing business. China’s live-streaming industry more than doubled in size last year, with revenues of around $3bn, according to Credit Suisse, a bank. More than 100 companies now offer the service, providing the platform for performers in exchange for a hefty cut of their earnings (one, YY, is publicly listed on NASDAQ, with $269m in gross revenues from live-streaming in the third quarter of last year, a year-on-year rise of more than 50%). That compares with box-office receipts for the Chinese film business, the world’s second-largest, of $7bn last year. Of the 710m people with internet connections in China, nearly half have used livestreaming apps. Many in the audience are diaosi looking for free entertainment and sometimes a substitute for romance. Women outnumber men as live-streamers, but most of the audiences are male. The government has imposed guidelines aimed mostly at the seamier side of the business, like the erotic eating of bananas (now banned). The most successful live-streamers tend to be attractive young singers of either sex, who can sometimes muster millions of fans. The most popular of them earn more than $1m a year, almost all of it from virtual gifts, but most of them are lucky to see a few hundred dollars a month, broadcasting anything from eating meals to visual pranks to warbling tunes requested by fans. Mr Zhao laments that to boost his earnings, he has to tell more dirty jokes.

直播是个蒸蒸日上的大产业。据瑞信银行(Credit Suisse)的报告显示,去年中国直播行业规模扩大了一倍多,产值约达30亿美元。现在有100多家公司提供直播服务,它们给主播提供平台,从他们的收入中抽取高额分成(其中,已在纳斯达克上市的YY公司去年直播业务的毛收入为2.69亿美元,同比增长超过50%)。中国直播业收入可与电影票房媲美,中国电影业规模位居世界第二,收入达70亿美元。中国的7.1亿网民中,近半数都安了直播软件。许多直播观众都是“屌丝”,他们想不花钱寻个乐子,或是求个情感寄托。主播中女性居多,但观众大多数是男性。政府出台了管控直播平台淫秽内容的指导政策,比如禁止挑逗性地“吃香蕉”这种行为。最成功的主播往往是年轻有魅力的男女歌手,他们的粉丝有时能达数百万人。最火的主播年收入逾百万美元(几乎全部来自于收取虚拟礼物),不过大部分主播一个月能赚几百美元就不错了。他们直播的内容什么都有,应粉丝要求,他们会直播吃饭、恶作剧或者表演颤音。赵新龙伤感地说,为了多赚点钱,他不得不多讲黄段子。

Live-streaming emerged in China after the financial crisis of 2007-08, as internet companies with questionable business models looked for a way to survive. Six Rooms,, may have been the first to offer live-streaming as a service for a mass audience. It was one of numerous YouTube-like video-sharing businesses (YouTube itself is blocked in China) burning money in 2008 and failed to secure a new round of funding. In desperation its CEO and co-founder, Liu Yan, turned to live-streaming.


In 2007 Mercedes-Benz, a carmaker, had paid 300,000 yuan ($39,000) to his site to live-stream an event, and his company had developed an inexpensive way to provide such a service on a wider scale to allow people to chat with each other and exchange virtual gifts. That helped make personal broadcasting a social game which could be monetised in a way not replicated on major social platforms of the West. In China, as well as in South Korea and Japan, where live-streaming has also caught on, virtual items have long had an underlying monetary value.


Now that the business model has been proven, all the Chinese internet giants have entered the live-streaming business. Pioneers like YY and Six Rooms must compete with bigger social platforms like Tencent. Six Rooms was acquired by a Chinese entertainment conglomerate for close to $400m in 2015, but Mr Liu, 44, remains the CEO. He has been using machine learning to work out what kinds of live-streamers inspire the most devotion from fans and get the most virtual gifts, down to preferences for facial features, tone of voice and regional provenance. He plans to unveil an even more ambitious effort soon: hired performers whose traits are determined, and perhaps enhanced, by machine learning. At this rate, life on the long tail of entertainment may start getting more difficult for rustbelt dreamers.







【plummet】 v. 大坡度或快速落下

Mr Zhao’s monthly income from driving a taxi has plummeted by more than half in the past couple of years, and he has not found it easy to make friends in his new abode.


【hefty】adj. 大量的; 可观的

 More than 100 companies now offer the service, providing the platform for performers in exchange for a hefty cut of their earnings.



That compares with box-office receipts for the Chinese film business, the world’s second-largest, of $7bn last year. 






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