China's online audio sector holds great potential for growth: industry insider

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China's online audio sector has broad prospects for future development, fueled by innovation and internet-enabled services, an industry insider has said.

"China's audio industry is faced with great opportunities and is expected to expand rapidly in the years to come," Marco Lai, founder and chief executive officer of LIZHI, a leading Chinese podcast and audio content platform, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Online audio refers to all the audio media content that is transmitted and listened to online. Currently, the forms of online audio in China mainly include audio programs (podcasts), online radio, audiobook, audio live streaming, audio social network, and other interactive audio entertainment.

"There is universal demand for audio products as human voice is powerful in delivering emotion and establishing people-to-people connections," said Lai, whose company was listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange earlier this month.

China has a huge user base and due to the rise of mobile internet users, listeners are increasingly turning to online and mobile channels for audio entertainment options, he added.

Shipments of smart speakers and wireless headphones in China have increased rapidly in recent years, and the popularization of the hardware would help provide more use scenes, boosting the penetration rate of audio products, according to the industry insider.

China's smart speaker shipments grew to 35.8 million in the first three quarters of 2019 and achieved a 43.8 percent market share worldwide, according to data from market research and consulting company iResearch.

Lai said that China is also a global leader in online audio product innovations both in content and formats.

"China's online audio market has been transformed into a more dynamic ecosystem with creative professional- and user-generated content offerings, diverse monetization models, and immersive interactive and entertainment features," he said.

Online audio platforms in China employ diversified monetization channels, including sales of virtual items, advertising, and content subscriptions, whereas online audio platforms in the United States monetize primarily through advertising and content subscriptions, said Lai.

As an emerging industry in China, the online audio sector enjoys great potential for growth, underpinned by a solid user base and people's developing habit of paying for digital content, the industry insider noted.

The number of China's online audio users is estimated to grow further from approximately 377.2 million in 2018 to 901.5 million in 2023, iResearch projected.

Data from the consulting firm also showed that China's online audio market, the world's second largest one in terms of revenue, is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of approximately 44 percent from 2018 to 2023, outpacing the growth of the U.S. online audio market.

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