As Chinese people’s quest for spiritual nourishment and diverse lifestyles continues and expands, so the audio industry is booming with more and more users engaging not just as listeners, but also as creators.

Li Ruo, one of 690 million audio users in China in 2022 — as estimated by research firm iiMedia Research — is a 26-year-old woman not amazed by the growing scale of the audio industry — with data suggesting that in 2018 only 425 million were involved in it.

“As white-collars who don’t have time for learning new things, audio products provide a good way to enrich our horizons and satisfy our need for knowledge. Also, this market is mature enough for people to be willing to pay for good audio products,” said Li, who started using audio applications in 2018 and has spent nearly 400 yuan (about 56.2 U.S. dollars) on audio products this year.

Relying on audio platforms to learn literature, history, etc., Li is a fan of audiobooks of which the market size reached 5 billion yuan (about 702.2 million U.S. dollars) in China in 2020, based on a report from the research firm iResearch.

While audiobooks have become the main contributor to the audio industry, the podcast market is also surging with User Generated Content (UGC) as the mainstay.


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Nan Bei (pseudonym), a 31-year-old woman, prefers podcasts as a special companion. Nan Bei is a migrant white-collar worker who left home for a life in Shanghai.

“I started to listen to podcasts in 2018,” said Nan Bei, whose favorite is StochasticVolatility produced by three women who focus on various topics related to life.

Listening to them is “just like friends talking to me,” said Nan Bei, and this feeling later also gave her the impetus to set up a podcast of her own in collaboration with a friend.

At the end of 2021, Nan Bei started a podcast with her friend, a woman named Qin, whom she has known for 16 years. They named the podcast “Speechless,” a self-mockery for the pair of friends, who are not good at socializing but still have the desire to express themselves.

Nan Bei is not alone. The number of UGC producers on audio platforms exceeded 13 million in 2021, a whopping increase compared to 7 million in 2018, according to the iiMedia Research report. Their content mainly consists of fascinating stories and witty observations about life.

With over 20 programs produced and hundreds of fans garnered in the process, Nan Bei and Qin’s programs are based on their personal experiences involving online shopping, games, books, favorite singers and so on.

“We didn’t do this for some overnight fame. What we aimed for at first was just a window to express ourselves and document meaningful chats. Then we found this podcast also works as a means to knot us more tightly together and to make us care more about life,” said Qin.

According to iResearch, the audio industry’s market size hit 12.3 billion yuan in 2020 and is expected to exceed 30 billion yuan in 2023. The fast development of the industry is mainly because of the rapid growth in paying users, increasing listening scenarios, and the popularity of audiobooks, podcasts and audio live-streaming.

Originally published by Xinhua