This article was originally writen by the Chinese media DomoreDumou(毒眸) and translated by PandaYoo.com after it was licensed. Copyright belongs to the original author and it is forbidden to reprint without permission.
Author: Fu Qiongyin
Chinese Editor: Jiang Yuqi
“Has the poisonous tongue talk with movie(毒舌电影) been updated in Youtube?”
Recently, a reader sent a screenshot to DomoreDumou showing that the “poisonous tongue talk with movie” channel already has 846 subscribers on YouTube. The latest video was released a day ago and the channel has been updated frequently. However, after consulting with colleagues in the relevant business, DomoreDumou learned that the company has not yet operated overseas, and the videos on the Youtube are all unauthorized. Currently, the company’s legal department has begun to deal with the matter.
However, after this survey, DomoreDumou found that the original Chinese film commentary and quick video clipping have long become a popular category on YouTube. Many popular accounts of film commentary on domestic video platforms, such as “Yu Ge MV (宇哥说电影)” and “Xiao Pian Pian Shuo Da Pian“(小片片说大片), all have accounts on YouTube, and have a good number of following.
Unlike poisonous tongue talk with movie, which was unauthorizedly uploaded from China, these accounts are basically entrusted to special institutions to help operate. Many creators have told DomoreDumou, that their original intention of “overseas release” is affected by what poisonous tongue talk with movie has experienced. ” Original videos that have been uploaded to YouTube, yet we have earned nothing. Why?” As a result, creators have commissioned professionals to begin to lay out overseas business.
After further investigation, DomoreDumou learned that Li Ziqi, Grandpa Amu and other Chinese-style vlogger who have become popular in YouTube in recent years are also operated by overseas operation agent. These agent usually sign agreements with creators to guarantee the amount of followers and content planning, and help creators distribute content, make subtitles, confirm copyright, even analyze data, give creators feedback.
From being forced to “face overseas audiences” to active layout, YouTube is becoming the main battleground for many Chinese Internet celebrities and KOLs to expand their business. And “moving videos from China to Youtube” is becoming a more professional, formal and common business.
Starting with unauthorized content for overseas audiences
Unauthorized video is the beginning of the realtionship between Chinese video creators and YouTube.
As one of the largest video sharing and publishing platforms in the world, the key for YouTube to attract a large number of high-quality content is its unique sharing pattern.
In 2007, YouTube officially launched the Partner Program, announcing that it would share advertising revenue with people who upload videos-including post ads before and after videos, display of graphic ads, and advertising marketing revenue after brand formation. Since only head channels are allowed to join the program at this stage, unauthorized video has not become a relatively common phenomenon.
The turning point came in 2012. In this year, the Partner Program lowered its access threshold, allowing any creator to join freely. After the release of the program, the number of partners increased from 30,000 to millions in just a few months. According to statistics, YouTube’s CPM (the cost per thousand ad views) reached $9.35 in 2012. According to this cost, a video with a playback volume of more than 500,000 can earn about 29,000 yuan (about $4,300).
As a result, many people saw business opportunities, turned their attention to overseas Chinese and overseas students, and began to upload some original domestic dramas, variety shows, and UGC(User Generated Content) to YouTube. According to the discussion of the post bar at that time, the video related to the Legend of Zhen Huan received at least 10 million hits on YouTube in 2012, and the revenue of video carriers could be as high as hundreds of thousands of yuan according to the calculation of CPM in 2012.
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Due to the loss of vital interests, Chinese TV stations have become the first wave of Chinese creators to sign up for Youtube accounts on their own initiative. In 2011, Shanghai Oriental Satellite TV registered its account “SMG Shanghai TV official Channel” on YouTube, which is the first of the four major satellite TV stations. In 2012, Jiangsu Satellite TV joined in and began to update programs on YouTube.
Compared with those satellite TVs, which were usually backed by strong content and legal team, many UGC video creators in China were also disturbed by the problem, yet could do nothing to solve it. Xiao Wu Technology(小五科技) CEO Dan told DomoreDumou that at that time, many creators in China had nothing more than two problems: they did not know how to solve the legal problems and protect their own rights. They might be interested in entering YouTube but did not know how to run their accounts.
In such context, some people with overseas video distribution experience began to use studio mode to help creators make plans on YouTube. Soon, a group of adventurous creators found that this would not only increase advertising revenue, but also ensure that their content could be protcted from piracy- it is killing two birds with one stone. Then the model was recognized by more and more practitioners, and the “regular army” officially appeared on the stage.
In 2015, WebTVAsia(葡萄子传媒), a Malaysian company, set up a subsidiary in Beijing, becoming the first company in China to help creators operate on overseas platforms. By the beginning of this year, WebTVAsia had signed up nearly 600 overseas channels in China, including “Li Ziqi“, “Yit“, “hawkaoa ful” and other top-level creators.
During the same period, YouTube also cracked down on piracy by publishing a content identification system and raising the income threshold for creators (two conditions need to be met to add ads to the video: there are 1000 followers, and the total time the video is watched reaches 4000 hours), making many accounts that mainly uploads pirated videos lose the opportunity to make profits.
The first batch of Chinese Internet celebrities who have become popular on YouTube emerged under the joint action of being in the right place at the right time.
Ms Yeah‘s fourth video, “Make hot pot with water dispenser“, went viral on YouTube in February 2017. Since then, videos shooting in the office, and vlogger focusing on “creative cooking delicacies” such as knitted instant noodles, steamed buns with hot ironing machines and electric drills and marshmallows quickly became a hot topic on YouTube. YouTube officially certified Ms Yeah was one of the fastest-growing fans of Chinese-created content at that time.
As an excellent representative of “Chinese creators going overseas”, China Daily published an exclusive interview with Ms Yeah, and overseas media and programs such as BBC, New York Times and Discovery were also following her. In September 2017, she was also invited to participate in the YouTube FANFEST held in Hong Kong as the only YouTuber from the mainland.
Ms Yeah did not sign up for an overseas agent, her company, Onion Video, was full charge of her YouTube channel. But in the first two years, she still ensured the growth of her channel by joining the overseas MCN where Dan was worked for at that time.
The success of Ms Yeah made more people see the possibility of operating overseas video accounts, so they joined the tide one after another. Dan joined Xiao Wu Technology in 2018. Nowadays, several mainstream operating companies in the industry are set up one after another at about the same time.
In the early days of China’s UGC entering Youtube, food content was the most important category, but with the increase in the number of entrants, categories were also gradually enriched. By analyzing contracted authors of Xiao Wu Technology, we can find that it now covers many kinds at present, including food, games, agriculture, rural areas, farmers, handicrafts, traditional culture and so on. Especially after the popularity of Li Ziqi, many Chinese vlogger who combine traditional culture with delicious food have also become popular, such as “Grandpa Amu“ who works in traditional carpentry.
Most of the time, in the matter of “going overseas”, the operation agent still occupies the dominant position. They will take the initiative to contact vloggers who may have commercial potential, take the initiative to communicate and dispel concerns. Grandpa Amu, who now has 1.26 million fans on YouTube, has been tranding on weibo many times this year, reported by People’s Daily, Xinhuanet, CCTV News and other media. Xiao Wu Technology contacted him initiativly.
Cheng, the operator of Grandpa Amu’s YouTube channel, told DomoreDumou, that there were not many details in the initial agreement. The core content was to authorize Xiao Wu Technology to operate Grandpa Amu overseas. As for some of the criteria that both sides needed to abide by, as well as the number of fans in different stages, and so on, they were all talked about in the course of operation in the later stage. Xiao Wu Technology also helps Grandpa Amu to conduct a detailed analysis of the background data and operations. “They also focus on very small details such as ow to adjust the content duration, title and so on, these very small details, which has given us a lot of help.”
“In the early years, before the industry was formalized, some agents would take advantage of the information gap to hide part of their income, and they would only do pure transportation in terms of content, without content-oriented analysis or giving suggestions.” Asked about the common concerns of creators, Dan said. But with the increase in enrollment, the industry is becoming more professional and income data are becoming more transparent, giving many onlookers more confidence.
However, it is still too early to say that the industry has matured.
Although some creators signed by Xiao Wu Technology have started to receive advertising content on Youtube since 2020, most creators still have a relatively simple revenue model on YouTube: mainly advertising revenue, while other income, such as fan reward, brand or advertising cooperation, e-commerce, live streaming and copyright revenue, are still in the exploratory stage.
Cheng mentioned to DomoreDumou the problem of a single revenue path: “in YouTube, we mainly rely on the volume of video playback. In China, in addition to video playback, there are also advertisements, sales of our own products, and some live streaming sells others products.”
How to make the current single income model more diversified is the crucial issue of all entrants’ efforts at present. To solve this problem, “breaking the circle” has become the key.
It is easier to go overseas than to break the circle.
It has been five years since the emergence of the “regular army” in 2015 that a large number of Chinese Internet celebrities “landing” on YouTube. In the past five years, how many “going overseas” vloggers have really broken the circle? In Dan’s opinion, this number may not be optimistic, and among vloggers who might break the circle, there may be only two real phenomenal content creators: Ms Yeah and Li Ziqi.
But such creators are impossible to do quantity production, and it is extremely difficult to replicate their path.
Ms Yeah started her overseas market early. In just seven months, her YouTube channel has reached 770,000 subscribers, with a total of 77.41 million views and 3.5 million Facebook fans. Li Ziqi, the vlogger with the fourth largest number of Facebook followers in Greater China, has more than 10 million fans, making it the first Chinese self-media person to reach this level. In last December, her supporters claimed that she exported Chinese culture on YouTube, a view that was also stamped by several state media.
Why is the number of Chinese vloggers who really break the circle (recognized by overseas audiences) so limited?
This is closely related to the positioning of these vloggers. By the end of 2019, the number of YouTube monthly active users has exceeded 2 billion, but according to relevant media statistics, the number of YouTube’s real overseas Chinese users is only about 100 million, and even fewer of them have a domestic life background and understand current Chinese pop culture.
Therefore, in fact, video content, which depends on native language like movie commentary, is becoming more and more popular and well received by foreign students. Yet the real ceiling is not high, and even with subtitles, foreign audiences may not be able to understand its deeper expression, and the communication effect will be greatly reduced.
The important reason why Li Ziqi and others can become rare breakers is that they choose food as their creative theme. The NewRank has reported on the concept of WebTVAsia the operator behind Li Ziqi‘s YouTube channel, that food knows no national boundaries.
Food videos usually show the most authentic appearance of food through the camera – extrat embellishing is not nessary. At the same time, the staff will be more targeted to do deeper works, such as translating the copy of the introduction into multiple languages to ensure that audiences from different countries have an intuitive understanding of the content.
The attitude of the creator in the content is also very important. Li Ziqi has built a paradise-like life in the video, while Ms Yeah in the office is an attitude of having fun in daily life.
“The most popular Chinese content overseas can actually be summed up in two points: one is only available in China, like what Li Ziqi does, and the other is being done all over the world, but this creator can do better than others.” Zhu Li, the director of the overseas business of WebTVAsia, once summed to NewRank.
In other words, although more and more categories are going overseas, the ones who are really popular and have a chance to become phenomenal are creators like Li Ziqi and Ms Yeah, who use food as a cut, or have obvious cultural labels. Therefore, at this stage, breaking the circle has become the biggest pain point for many of operation agents. In Dan’s view, the audiences of most creators are still overseas Chinese, and those who can take the lead in winning over 100 million overseas Chinese users will have a better chance to break through.
In this process, Xiao Wu Technology has the advantage of working closely with the official. At present, it is the only MCN in the mainland China that enters the YouTube MCN list, so it also has more opportunities to communicate with the official, and can get more plans and resources. “In 2018 we began to have meetings with this matter. Our operations, content authors and YouTube official strategists will have regular meeting every two months,” Dan said.
Grandpa Amu’s popularity in YouTube is inseparable from the official cooperation with YouTube. Grandpa Amu was originally positioned as a local food channel. After consultation between the operators and YouTube’s official operating strategists and Watermelon video (a Bytedance video App) operators, the team decided to focus on the traditional carpentry image based on personal IP.
Similar meticulous operation is also an important direction for many operators. Zhao Bingnan, a senior overseas operator of WebTVAsia, once introduced to the NewRank that she focuses on operating an average of about 20 accounts a day. Records the daily channel management, including the number of uploaded videos, channel maintenance, partner communication and so on.
In addition to the regular uploading work, such overseas operators are also responsible for the fine operation of the channel, such as modifying title or profiles, adding keywords, as well as fan interaction, copyright protection, partner communication and other works.
Although not every creator can become a top level YouTuber, the stable revenue of YouTube and the increasing user utilization rate year by year have indeed given content entrepreneurs more choices and economic income support in overseas markets. Therefore, helping more small and medium-sized content creators to go overseas to cash out and enhance the sustainable development of content entrepreneurship has also become the key work direction of institutions such as Xiao Wu Technology.
However, compared with those mature MCN institutions that operate domestic video platforms, limiting by data samples, there are still many hurdles that these overseas operators want to cross.
The battle will not come to an end very soon.
However, it should be noted that there are not only institutions specializing in YouTube and medium-and long-term video, but also short video operators specializing in TikTok. According to DomoreDumou, in recent years, with the popularity of TikTok overseas, many advertisers have also turned their attention to this field. According to MCN, which has overseas operation of TikTok, the online celebrity performance-to-price ratio of TikTok is actually higher than that of YouTube and Facebook.
On the one hand, as a platform to occupy the market on a large scale since 2019, online celebrities are relatively cheap; On the other hand, TikTok also has a large conversion rate.
“We often have more than 100 million views on our millions of fans’ TikTok accounts, and a short video can bring thousands of dollars of GMV.” Zi Hao, the head of the TikTok operation agent Whale-eating Market, told DomoreDumou.
Considering that many advertisers invest relatively limited resources overseas, despite it is not a zero-sum game in the real sense, the growth of attention on one side is bound to have an impact on the liquid space of the other. Many creators can process and output their content to different platforms at the same time, however in Zi Hao’s view, the content creating logic of the two platforms is completely different.
This is obvious in two points: in YouTube’s recommendation mechanism, recommendations for vloggers are still based on content categories, and overseas users can still browse to Chinese vloggers. However in TikTok’s recommendation mechanism, “it is very difficult for Asian faces to be recommended to white users in Europe and the United States. The number of videos in which vloggers do not show their faces may have higher recommended weight,” Zi Hao told DomoreDumou.
In addition, compared with domestic creators who can upload similar video content on YouTube and domestic streaming platforms, TikTok’s recommendation mechanism will not recommend content that has existed on Douyin or other platforms. This makes some creators of multi-platform operation have to make a trade-off between TikTok and others.
Zi Hao also told DomoreDumou that TikTok’s current algorithm in Europe has undergone a major update. The new algorithm has higher requirements for localized content creation and operation, so the operation agent of TikTok focuses more on providing “TikTok original operation” for brands. At present, Whale-eating MCN has signed up many foreign anchors and is training overseas KOLs to create online celebrity IP on social media such as TikTok, YouTube, Ins and so on.
Because TikTok can bring a lot of exposure to the brand and turn it into a certain number of orders, many cross-border e-commerce companies are willing to invset resources here. Dan can also feel the trend, but he says he won’t do TikTok for the time being, as TikTok’s short videos are different from medium-and long-term videos like YouTube. He and his team still want to focus on what they are good at.
The competition for Chinese Internet celebrities to go overseas is still full of uncertainties in the future. The fight is just begun.