While platforms such as Ximalaya FM and Qingting FM are busy introducing paid content, the popular live music streaming app, Lizhi FM, has decided that it will be taking a different route. The company has just announced that it recently completed Series D funding of $50 million USD with the help of Orchid Asia and EMC (Evolution Media China). This is the first time that the company received outside funding since 2015 when its $20 million USD Series C was completed thanks to Xiaomi, Shunwei, Matrix Partners and Morningside.
According to multiple media outlets, this recent round of funding will be mainly appropriated on product R&D and upgrades to the user experience. More specifically, the company is trying to improve recording technologies in live environments to increase the level of immersion for the end user. In addition, Lizhi is developing a user interaction mechanism to optimize the social aspect of the platform, in turn bettering the user experience.
Official previous year-end data from Lizhi FM shows that the platform currently has 150 million total registered users, 30 million unique active users each month, 3 million content creators and over 100 million pieces of content. During an interview with 36Kr, Lai Yilong, founder of Lizhi FM, said that the company’s monthly revenue has reached nearly ¥100 million RMB, allowing them to systematically monetize the content on the platform.
In October of 2016, Lizhi introduced its audio live stream feature, catering to the emotional needs of the younger generation. Official data indicate that over 80% of the users of this feature are born after 1990, with the majority of them being female. To expand its user base, Lizhi has experimented with a plethora of features, including live annotations and tipping.
According to a report by iiMedia, the total user base for all audio live streaming platforms in China in 2016 was 69 million, and it is expected to reach 112 million by the end of 2017, a growth rate of 62.3% compared to the previous year. The total number of users is projected to surpass 200 million by the year 2020. Even with the current trend of drastic fragmentation in consumers’ needs, audio-related consumption is apparently here to stay. Many mobile audio service apps have also jumped on the train to introduce similar services and methods of monetization for streamers.
However, there are still a significant number of platforms that can’t necessarily provide tangible or monetary benefits to streamers. Granted, many of these apps can supply streamers with server space and limited promotion services, and those with tipping services may generate some revenue, but these are far from any meaningful figures that can support one’s livelihood.
Not long ago, news broke out that news giant Toutiao has decided to enter the audio industry by introducing a brand new service called “Xin Zhi,” literally translating to “new knowledge” or “new information.” If these rumors are indeed true, Toutiao’s new creation would mean strong competition for Ximalaya and Qingting FM, who only just entered the paid audio industry in 2017. With more players joining the market, whether or not Lizhi can survive with their audio streaming service remains to be seen. One thing, however, is for certain: shake-ups and shuffling will continue to be the trend in the industry in 2018.
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