Amy Xu
Amy Xu is an associate tech and media analyst for Mintel China. Amy researches and writes reports on Chinese tech and media industries.

Since 2012, the Chinese audio industry has entered a growth phase, and many industry leaders such as Ximalaya have emerged. In 2015, the audio market went through a growth phase where all the companies started to fight for a share of the market. In 2016 and 2017, businesses matured and attracted tons of users. Of course, this year’s pandemic has given rise to the “Ear Economy”. We have also seen companies like Ximalaya eagerly develop content products such as audiobooks, radio dramas, and paid knowledge courses to provide users with new ways of entertainment and learning. It is worth noting that paid knowledge is estimated to account for about 30% of the total revenue of a platform.  

Due to audio’s diverse content and ability to adapt to fragmented usage scenes, consumers are spending more and more time on them. From the perspective of usage scenarios, audiobooks, auto audio, sleep-aid, de-stressing and fitness are emerging new opportunities for audio scene-based services. Mintel’s data reveals that more than four in five survey respondents are interested in trying sound-related de-stressing activities, and nearly half of respondents have smart speakers, so the popularity of smart speakers is also an important driver for the audio market growth. 

According to CNNIC, by the end of last year, the podcast market has taken up 9% of internet users’ total daily usage. This form of entertainment ranked 4th following other entertainment forms such as short video, online video, and instant messaging. It is worth noting that according to CNNIC, podcast usage duration has topped music streaming services. The development of the market has gradually begun to blur the boundaries – entertainment forms such as live-streaming and short video are also being incorporated into these platforms. 

In the future, with such a large selection of content to choose from, it places a heavy burden on the algorithm to achieve personalized suggested content. Additionally, professional user categories such as e-learning and music streaming will divert a portion of the market, so how can you better engage your audience and increase user stickiness in an increasingly competitive environment? Perhaps we can consider the following three aspects: 

Contents

 In terms of contents, platforms can aid the development of UGC (User Generated Contents) towards PUGC (Professional User Generated Contents). Cooperate with new content production tools in the pan-entertainment industry will lower the threshold of content production, enhance content creativity and stimulate quality. Furthermore, extending audio-based training programs for current grassroot users will better boost the quality of the overall platform, benefiting the whole industry development. 

Algorithm

Again, with the diverse contents to choose from, the enhanced algorithms will allow the platforms to distribute contents to who and to where more accurately. 

Formats

The market players are experiencing new content formats such as creating audio-based to incorporate visual aids and enlarge its use scenes. 

What We Think

A brand’s competitive advantage will be shown through their ability to talk copyright. For example, for the audio books segment to enrich its content, platforms need to gain copyright to the books first. Thus, the richer the content library is, the more competitive edge they will gain.