“I have a podcast / audio show I would like to get distributed in China, hopefully on one of these platforms: Koala, Lizhi, Ximalaya or Qingting.fm. Do you think you could get my show on one of these? What would be the price?”
Mike (let’s give the person a name)
Answer by Shane Chen, our marketing consultant:
The answer is absolutely yes, it is possible to get your podcast onto one of the Chinese podcast platforms. The platforms mentioned in the question are good marketing channels, however underestimated, especially if your target viewers are English language students. I personally know many people using podcasts to study languages. As I work as a part-time English teacher as well, I often recommend them to my own students. I’m not a native English-speaker, so I am well aware of how difficult it is for some students to get in touch with real native-style language. Not all schools offer classes with native-speakers, so American TV series and podcasts are a great way to learn the language. It’s a very convenient way to learn, because it can be done anywhere, as long as the listener has a mobile device. I meet people listening to podcasts every day in the subway or at the gym.
Let me then talk more about the four most popular podcast platforms in China. Their user demographics and content niches vary – I just want to make sure you choose the most suitable platform for you.
Many Chinese radio platforms emerged in the market in 2012, and the number of users has been growing ever since. In 2016 there were over 200 million users in China, and the number is expected to reach 300 million by 2019, according to iiMedia Research.
Koala FM was launched in 2013. Similar to Today’s Headline, China’s most popular news app, the Koala app analyzes users’ individual preferences and recommends similar podcasts or audio tracks. So far, there are over 150 million users on Koala, among whom 30% are between 25 - 30 years old.
In 2016 Koala changed its target users to drivers. They predict that in-vehicle entertainment will grow in popularity within the following 3-5 years. To date, Koala has partnered up with over 40 automobile companies.
Koala is not a name that comes to mind for young people when they think about online radio platforms. If Koala FM is to build a strong brand name among younger generations, there’s still a long way to go. The platform is well-known rather among 40-55 year-olds.
On Koala, users are only allowed to upload pre-recorded podcasts.
For individuals, you will need to submit a Chinese ID card info or a passport if you’re not a Chinese citizen. An account is free.
For companies, soft copies of a Chinese business license and judicial representative are required. Foreign companies are not yet allowed to start an account.
Note that Koala FM is not related to Kaola, the e-commerce company.
Created in 2013, Lizhi mainly targets viewers under the age of 24. It’s the most unique podcast platform in China so far with the tagline ‘Everybody can be a podcaster’. They mostly focus on individuals’ podcasts, compared to other platforms which offer radio stations’ broadcasts. Everyone can use their app to record and edit a podcast. Content is mostly about daily life, art, love; it’s very young. You can barely find any podcasts on politics etc.
Note that Lizhi only supports pre-recorded podcasts, it’s not like a radio, where you can go live.
70-90% of their users are female. Among all the users, 50% are students and another 20% are white-collar workers.
It’s a good platform for anyone aiming at students or young people in general. So if you’re in the education industry, Lizhi is what we’d recommend.
All you need is a Chinese phone number as you’ll be sent a verification SMS after you download the app. An account is free.
You can read more on Lizhi in our previous blog post here.
Ximalaya is now the biggest platform in China with over 350 million users. It’s also probably the most well-recognized worldwide. They accept both professional and user-generated content.
It is the most popular and comprehensive podcast platform in China so far, especially in the field of audiobooks. They have novels, news, music, and language training content.
Around 39% of Ximalaya’s users are under the age of 24. 19.5% are students and another 21% are white-collar workers. For educational projects like Mikes’, where the goal is to sell some online courses to Chinese students, Ximalaya is my top pick.
As a non-Chinese citizen, you can only sign up there as an individual. A copy of your passport and your picture will be required. Account setup is free of charge.
Qingting is the runner-up in the Chinese online radio industry, with approximately 300 million users now, of which 13% are students and 16% are white-collar workers. Qingting relies more on professionally-generated content. Qingting has partnered both with KOLs and traditional radio stations. Therefore, most of those podcasts are of high-quality, especially compared to those on Lizhi and Koala. However, they may sound too serious for young people, like students, who prefer the very relaxed style of Lizhi podcasts.
All of the podcasts on Qingting are live, you cannot upload pre-recorded content. So, it’s not an option for those who’d like to broadcast pre-recorded online classes.
If you’re a foreigner, you can only sign up as an individual. A copy of your passport and your picture will be required. Account setup is free of charge.
For Mike’s English training podcasts, I recommend using Ximalaya and Lizhi for the reasons that I mentioned above. Also, there are already many language schools and individual teachers using those podcast platforms successfully, which shows that it can work well.
If you have questions about marketing in China, please let us know. We can help answer some questions on our blog. We also provide market research and strategy consulting services.