China Focus: Home to 3,000 anchors! Visiting China’s livestream township

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NANJING, July 13 (Xinhua) — Haitou Township has undergone a miraculous transformation, with the small fishing town in east China’s Jiangsu Province reinventing itself as a livestreaming paradise.

In 2018, it drew great media fanfare by tallying 16.5 billion views on Kuaishou, a leading Chinese short-video platform. Last year, local seafood sales through e-commerce exceeded 5 billion yuan (707.5 million U.S. dollars).

From fishing nets to the Internet, Haitou has made a perfect transition by exploring new possibilities in the digital era. The township boasts over 3,000 livestreamers, who are selling aquatic products online around the clock. Zhang Yanxi is a frontrunner.

Zhang has over 460,000 followers on Kuaishou. His livestream often starts at 9 p.m. and crayfish with seasoning were the star on the interview day.

“I logged over 200 orders during the one-hour livestream,” said Zhang.

In 2013, Zhang purchased a mobile phone and began detailing his maritime life online and accumulated his first batch of followers. The 33-year-old was exposed to e-commerce in 2015 when he started uploading videos he shot at sea on Kuaishou.

“I shot videos about everything I saw at sea, such as the sunrise, sunset and the fishing process. I was the first in our village to do livestreaming,” he said.

“To my surprise, many fans came to me to buy seafood, so I began selling seafood products online,” said Zhang.

Zhang earned over 1 million yuan in 2017. Now his team has 28 mobile phones, with 28 WeChat accounts each having 5,000 followers. He even met his wife through livestreaming.

Kuang Lixiang, another livestreamer in Haitou, boasts 2.88 million followers on Kuaishou. The expressive man’s ace in the hole is his appetite — he wolfs down hefty portions of his products in front of the camera.

He prefers live broadcasting on his boat, where the audience can see how seafood freshly caught is cooked. His trick is to pick the seafood out of boiling water barehanded and eat it directly.

“I’ve got no special talent other than being an eager beaver,” said Kuang. “My gums were once scalded and I even lost a tooth.”

For him, the price is worth paying. He can sell products worth 3 million yuan overnight. In Haitou, there are at least 12 online celebrities like Kuang that have over 1 million followers, and the annual sales revenue of 35 family stores can top 10 million yuan.

Glamorous as it may seem, their success did not come easy.

“We seldom slept before 4 a.m., and I had little time with my kid,” said Liu Feifei, a hairstylist-turned-livestreamer with about 700,000 followers.

The family used to run a hair salon. “I heard my customers say they could earn 2,000 to 3,000 yuan every day (by livestreaming). I was tempted. The happiest moment for me is when I hear the sound of the printer printing the shipment waybills. It’s awesome,” she said.

Every afternoon, livestreamers go to markets to select products or to the pier to shoot short videos.

“There is no pie falling from the sky. It’s not that you can sell any seafood as long as you put it in front of the camera and do a livestream. It’s not that easy,” said Liu. “Some people tried livestreaming for over a year but still failed.”

“Even when we end the show, we have to sort out the orders and arrange the shipping before going to bed,” she said. “We must prepare in advance how to promote the product. You must let the customers know why it’s good and worth purchasing, plus set a reasonable price. All of this takes time and effort.”

“You still need to work hard despite having a good platform,” said Liu. “I love Haitou, everyone here is diligent and hardworking.”

In recent years, more and more youngsters have come to Haitou to join in the livestreaming industry.

In 2018, Yan Xiuyu resigned from his job in Beijing, and came back to his hometown Haitou, hoping to cash in on the e-commerce dividends.

He adopted an extreme method to attract followers — by livestreaming 24 hours a day for three consecutive months.

“Midnight is the busiest hour in the seafood distribution center, and we introduce the audience to how they can identify various types of seafood. After that, we enjoy the sunrise together, that’s how we accumulated our first followers,” said Yan.

The local government has also played an active role in promoting the sustained development of the livestreaming industry.

“Our office was offered by the authorities for free. The local government has also provided us with favorable policies and services, such as cold storage and supply channels for the e-commerce industrial park. I think all of us share a common dream, that is to make this place the top seafood e-commerce town in China,” Yan said. Enditem

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