A bluffer's guide to livestreaming

What's it all about? A crash course in watching other people do not a lot

In case you’ve been living under a rock and the rock squashed your smartphone, livestreaming is China’s new national infatuation; the latest digital endemic in the colourful history of the Chinese internet. Livestreamers sign up to a dedicated livestreaming app, of which there are now well over 200, and broadcast themselves doing any number of unlikely things in real time, limited only by the imagination of the livestreamer and, naturally, the vigilance of the Cyberspace Administration of China.

For scale, some livestreamers broadcast to audiences of more than 1 million people at any one time. During a livestream, viewers may shower their favourite livestreamers with ‘virtual gifts’, which they purchase with real money. At the end of a broadcast, livestreamers may then exchange their gifts for real money, with the livestreaming app pilfering a percentage rate between 10-70 – depending on the app – per transaction.

The industry is valued at roughly 5 billion USD after just two years, and it’s estimated there are up to 400 million registered livestreaming accounts in China alone. Recently, there’s been a boom in companies referred to as wanghong fuhua (网红孵化) or ‘internet celebrity incubators’. Wanghong fuhua specialise in growing a livestreamer’s online presence until they have garnered a large audience to whom the livestreamer can then advertise and sell cross-promoted goods during their broadcasts.

Who to watch

Suki Luo

Suki Luo

Guangzhou-based model Suki Luo is one of three women to recently sign with Zhang Lun’s Magic Circle ‘fame incubator’ app. ‘He thinks I have a more European look,’ she says. Currently attracting crowds in the thousands, Suki’s tipped for big things in the game, generally livestreaming in a Q&A format.
Language Chinese.
Catch her on Yinke (User ID 57443115) and Yizhibo (User ID 59396015).

David Gulasi

David Gulasi

Remember that guy who went viral with his ‘piss off back home you ignorant foreigners’ video? Turns out Australian livestreamer David Gulasi has been nurturing his online presence for some time now, and livestreams a spirited ‘would you rather’ chat show with an off-camera Chinese translator.
Language English.
Catch him on Yizhibo (User ID 33963169).

Boss-ass crew we met in Gulou

Boss-ass crew we met in Gulou

Strolling along Gulou Dong Dajie, we pop into that sweet vampire shop for a browse. There we find a crew of three dudes streaming themselves having a whale of a time extracting stuffed toys from the skill tester with the big metal claw. They left and yelled on the street a bit, before being directed to a video games store at the request of their 1.1 million-strong audience, who then voted on which games to buy.
Language Chinese
Catch them on Douyu (User ID 568901663).

Play it safe

Don't livestream yourself...

Don't livestream yourself...

Naked Pornography is totally banned in China. Don’t be naked. Many people have had their accounts shut down – and in some cases sent to prison – for exposing themselves to their audience.

Eating a banana Or eating one all sexy-like for the camera, at least. Perhaps the most globally publicised development in livestreaming, ‘seductive’ banana consumption was banned earlier in 2016 and may result in termination of your account.

Breaking into Ikea Or attempting to hide in an Ikea broom closet overnight like Yizhibo user ‘Blue Fatty’ did. Unfortunately, Blue Fatty’s stream was too popular for his own good, catching the attention of local authorities who intervened shortly after the stream went live.

Cremating a dead body Turns out that’s not as obvious as you might think. A 20-year-old male Chengdu resident had his account terminated after livestreaming himself burning dead bodies at the local crematorium where he works, adding ‘come quickly to warm yourself at the fire’.

Do livestream yourself...

Do livestream yourself...

Teaching something Livestreaming apps provide a great medium through which to teach and be taught. English lessons are popular, but there’s plenty of people out there teaching musical instruments, too. Follow your skills.

Exhibiting a talent Most livestreaming apps have a section devoted to those with ‘talents’, and while the majority of the livestreamers in this section are making use of the inbuilt KTV functionality, we’ve seen people cooking, reciting poetry and painting user-voted portraits – the possibilities are vast.

Showing something people can’t otherwise see Some of the most entertaining livestreamers take you where you can’t otherwise be. We recently stumbled upon an American lady livestreaming her morning stroll down Fifth Avenue. Her audience asked her to walk to Trump Tower, which at the time was crawling with police and reporters. Her viewers were then treated to a fascinating conversation with an NBC cameraman who had been staking out the tower for several days.

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