Audio Attraction (Paywalled)

Though worth billions, China’s podcast industry struggles to turn a profit—or tell a story

When Chen Hengyi failed to get a place in his dream Master’s program, discovering the “Podcasts” app on his iPad helped him get over the disappointment. Listening to comedy sketches lifted his mood, while talk shows on technology, music, and current affairs provided an informative distraction.

Now, the 23-year-old from Wuhan is hooked on audio. Chen currently keeps up with 10 programs on Ximalaya, China’s largest online audio platform, losing himself every day in the stories of Chinese astronauts preparing for Mars and the struggles of the blind in Chinese cities. “[I] experience different kinds of…life, [and] get a sense that the world is really colorful,” he tells TWOC.

Digital audio content, or “podcasts,” took off in China around 2012 with the launch of Ximalaya. The genre has already attracted valuations upward of 7.3 billion USD. That figure, first suggested by a State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) research unit in 2017, would make the Chinese podcast or boke (播客) industry roughly 23 times the size of that in the US, theoretically offering boundless amounts of content for fans like Chen.

This is subscriber exclusive content

Become a subscriber to continue reading

Audio Attraction (Paywalled) is a story from our issue, “Tuning Up.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.



Sam Davies is the deputy managing editor at The World of Chinese. He writes mainly about society, sport, and culture, with his pieces touching on diverse topics from the future of China’s ski industry to efforts to prevent juvenile crime.

Related Articles