I’ve been a fan of podcasts for a long time. Starting in 2009 (around the time I started at China Radio International’s English service), I listened to shows such as No Agenda, Hardcore History, and This Week in Tech. Back then, I thought the podcast market was pretty mature. At least the production values on these shows were quite high and they all seemed to be making money through a combination of donations and ads. At the time, podcasts were almost unheard of in China.

Fast forward to 2014. Apple’s China operations begin to take podcasting in China seriously. In need of content, they convinced our radio station to upload episodes to their platform. Around that time, we also started uploading our content to local audio platforms like Ximalaya and Lizhi.fm. By the time I left in 2015, we still hadn’t gotten much traction online: podcasts weren’t mainstream and, to tell the truth, we weren’t putting in any extra effort for online listeners.

In 2019, the market for audio content looks quite different. Popular “traditional” podcasts (like the podcasts on our network) are monetizing enough to support full-time teams while audio content platforms are leveraging mobile payments to tap into China’s aspirations for self-improvement.

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John Artman is the Editor in Chief for TechNode, the leading English information source for news and insight into China’s tech and startups, and co-host of the China Tech Talk podcast, a regular discussion... More by John Artman