Live-streamers can make money in various ways, including endorsing products and accepting tips from viewers. For some, hawking wares online has turned them into online celebrities. Others just see it as an easy way to make quick cash.
The ease of setting up shop has helped some celebrities rake in cash when their star power has dried up elsewhere. The news cycle may also determine who shows up.
Earlier this week, news went viral that live-streaming celebrity Sun Yining had rejected advances from Wang Sicong, the celebrity son of Wang Jianlin, the billionaire founder of Dalian Wanda Group. Screenshots of abusive texts allegedly from Wang were posted online. In a later 150-minute live-streaming session, Sun reportedly pulled in 700,000 yuan in tips from her viewers.
Without a high-profile controversy to attract viewers, though, the big bucks do not come easy. Most of the 130 million live-streaming accounts in China last year only made between 3,000 and 5,000 yuan per month, according to a report from the China Association of Performing Arts.
In May last year, China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security officially recognised live-streaming sellers as a new occupation under the category of “internet marketing specialists”. However, the industry, including self-media generally, is facing increasing scrutiny as Beijing tightens its grip on online content and the digital economy.
A new set of rules for live streaming, published in April by China’s internet watchdog and six other regulatory bodies, banned a range of behaviours that include peddling fake products, falsifying viewership numbers and engaging in gambling or fraud. It called on platforms to establish a blacklist system to enforce the regulations.
Self-media workers were already operating under intense censorship when the Cyberspace Administration of China cracked down on citizen journalists in February, which came about in part because of their role in reporting on conditions in Wuhan last year in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak.