For Marco Lai, the founding father of Chinese podcast community Lizhi, radio has at all times been social.
Twenty years in the past, the entrepreneur was a number at a radio station in southern China. He ran a late-night program the place listeners may name in and chat about something as they wished, usually riffing on emotions, relationships or different intimate topics. Those who couldn’t get by means of the cellphone line despatched textual content messages that Lai would then learn on air. At the time, it was a preferred and promising mannequin for radio stations, which divided the income earned from messaging charges with community carriers.
Now, Lai manages certainly one of China’s largest podcast corporations. Lizhi means “lychee” in Chinese, the fragrant tropical fruit from his hometown within the southern province of Guangdong. He picked up one of many red-shell fruits from a tea desk in his workplace as he started telling me Lizhi’s story.
“I discovered from my days working in radio that interplay is the perfect monetization mannequin within the audio enterprise. For years in China, the primary income supply for radio stations was these textual content messages,” Lai reminisced, talking at a relaxed, gradual tempo that’s uncharacteristic in China’s dog-eat-dog entrepreneurial world.
The headquarters itself felt extra like a large, inviting espresso store than a high-strung office of a Nasdaq-listed agency. Tugged away in a low-rise warehouse-turned-office in Guangzhou, the place is dotted with well-tended bonsai and employees sitting on bean baggage behind glass assembly rooms.
Lai constructed the app for podcast manufacturing in addition to consumption, capturing each the provision and demand sides. As of June, 56 million folks used Lizhi month-to-month. Over 6 million of them had been creators, and the cumulative variety of podcasts uploaded to the platform hit a brand new document excessive of 215 million.