CEO, Maybach Music Group
4518 stories
·
47 followers

Inside China's Biggest Live-Streaming Superstar Factory

1 Share

I was told to expect skimpy outfits, but not an overweight man in a pink wig, red lipstick, and a sparkly mermaid tail and bra. But there he was, on stage, blowing kisses at the video camera and sporadically saying "Thank you!" in a girly voice, like a character from some kind of twisted version of The Little Mermaid. 

I hoped that he was getting serious coin for making such a spectacle of himself. Thankfully he probably was, as he was being broadcast live to thousands of viewers on an internet show, the title of which roughly translates to I Am Your Hawaii Girl, in the Beijing headquarters of REDO Media. The firm claims to be China's biggest live-streaming star agency.

I Am Your Hawaii Girl was being shown on the live-streaming app Lai Feng. Behind the cameras the producers, staring at screens showing the footage unfolding, nodded their heads as virtual gifts such as flower and banana emojis streamed in. "Thank you!" Mr Sparkly Mermaid cooed again as digital roses—each representing a one yuan (15 cents) gift—piled up on screen.

Matjaz Tancic/Motherboard

The recent broadband-quick rise in popularity in China of apps such as Lai Feng, and the people who broadcast on them, has caused a new branch of the internet technology industry to spring up around it. The REDO Media agency has around 3,000 internet stars on its books from across China, many of whom self-broadcast as their full-time jobs.

The company invited me to its Beijing office to show me how its iPhone-wielding army of broadcasters made money.

*

REDO Media's large office complex was a primary colour-splattered mash of design styles. Small studios lined dormitory-style corridors; behind each door was a female broadcaster entertaining followers via a tripod-mounted iPhone. Viewers competed for their attention by giving them digital gifts, that are bought with real money and can be converted back into cash.

In one studio a young bespectacled girl tilted a tiny black rabbit towards her smartphone, excitedly introducing the twitching fur ball to her followers. Next door, a petite woman in a lacey white dress and a tiara belted out pop songs while holding a massive microphone. In another room a woman sat in front of a huge panda head soft toy and bashed a keyboard, triggering cutesy laughter and squeaking sound effects.

Matjaz Tancic/Motherboard

Due to the spike in the amount of people watching these streamers live over the past year, doing this full time has become a lucrative job for thousands of women. Women self-broadcasters with the firm outnumber men by around nine to one.

Live-streaming sites such as Douyu paved the way for the industry explosion by facilitating the rise in popularity of live-streaming video games (although Twitch is not censored in China, by having its interface in Chinese Douyu is far more popular in the country). With the Chinese government blocking a huge amount of websites due to strict censorship and an ongoing campaign to "clean up" the internet, Chinese broadcasting sites have flourished in an arena with little international competition.

Realising that a huge amount of men in China like to watch and send messages to girls broadcasting from their bedrooms using such sites and apps, self-broadcasters catering to this market became massively in demand.

"After Chinese New Year last year it really went viral thanks to the era of mobile internet kicking in hard," said Wang Chen, a manager at REDO Media. That prompted the company, which formed in 2013, to start signing up the most promising broadcasters.

I met two of them, 18 year-old Di Tai and 23 year-old Memo, in one of REDO Media's dressing rooms. The pair slapped on makeup and giggled, a propped-up iPhone capturing the scene and broadcasting it live as we chatted. "Hello—I am English" I said to the iPhone, prompting a cascade of "Hello!" messages written in English to cut through the feed of Chinese language messages.

Matjaz Tancic/Motherboard

Matjaz Tancic/Motherboard

Along with the mermaid guy, Di and Memo were the main stars of I Am Your Hawaii Girl. Their job was to splash around in water tanks playing picture-drawing games whilst wearing bikinis. "It's basically like going on a beach holiday," said Memo. "At first, before I got in the tank, I was a bit nervous but it started to feel natural. You don't wear a jacket when you're on the beach, right?"

Di and Memo usually earn a few thousand yuan each per day (1,000 yuan converts to around $145) broadcasting either at home or in a REDO Media studio. Memo, however, said that the most she earned in digital gifts in one week, before the total was split according to her contract, was 410,000 yuan ($60,000). Full-time self-broadcasters get a salary from REDO Media and take home around 20 percent of their total gift earnings after it is divided between them, the agency, and broadcasting platforms.

"That broadcaster who was jailed deserved it. Tougher policies will help purify the industry."

"I mainly sing—and I'm talkative, so I answer questions from viewers," said Di. "As girls, you can always use charm and cuteness," added Memo. "Skills like singing and dancing work. Also, I'll make subtle comments to get gifts such as, 'A broadcasting room like mine would be perfect if I had that gift'. But skills are the most important."

To hone these skills REDO Media trains up broadcasters with dancing and singing classes—the company has both a dance and recording studio. It also offers advice to the broadcasters about how to deal with the inevitable lewd comments that pop up in their feeds. "It's not uncommon for anyone in this industry to get comments like that," said manager Wang, who encourages broadcasters to simply ignore them. "It's like when people say, 'If you get bitten by a dog, would you bite back?'."

*

There's no doubt that REDO Media's female self-broadcasters are largely chosen for their attractiveness, but they seldom do anything racier on camera than show a bit of cleavage. Authorities in China have clamped down hard on the industry over the past year in an attempt to eliminate "inappropriate content" from the web, shutting down thousands of live-stream accounts. Last November a 21 year-old woman from Chengdu was jailed for four years for live-streaming herself enjoying a foursome. In May that same year, "erotic" banana eating in live-streams was banned.

You won't find any suggestive fruit sucking in the booths at REDO Media.

Matjaz Tancic/Motherboard

"Tougher regulations are a good thing," said Wang. "That broadcaster who was jailed deserved it. Tougher policies will help purify the industry."

Indeed, Zi Jing, a 23 year-old broadcaster who is one of the company's star performers, was the picture of sweetness and innocence during my visit. She sauntered through the office's corridors, resplendent in her elegant white frock, her selfie stick holding her constantly-filming iPhone in front of her.

Zi has around 390,000 subscribers on Lai Feng, and helps host shows such as I Am Your Hawaii Girl. She earns "a couple of hundred thousand yuan" (100,000 yuan converts to around $14,500) a day before the money is split, broadcasting to between 50,000 and 100,000 people during sessions that last around eight hours.

"I am real and natural," she said when I asked what the secret of her success was. "Not many people like pretentious girls these days, or girls with 'cosmetic' style faces."

Some impressively sneaky tactics, as well as this "real"-ness, have contributed to Zi's success. "For example, if someone sends me a gift I'll say, 'Oh, did you give me a gift? I didn't see it. Can you please send it again?'"

Matjaz Tancic/Motherboard

Matjaz Tancic/Motherboard

Many of the self-broadcasters working with agencies such as REDO Media have ambitions to be proper 'real life' celebrities, and go on to work in TV. For many, though, working as a self-broadcaster is lucrative enough. It provides easy, flexible work: a tempting alternative to normal rat race employment in China's cutthroat graduate job market.

But how satisfying is making a living letting people watch you flounce around all day through your iPhone? Does it make the broadcasters' parents proud? Memo insists it does. "My mum actually broadcasts with me—we both go on camera," she said. "She thinks being a broadcaster is not as easy as people think. Some are sexy, some are funny, but she sees what I am doing as more like being a comedian, bringing laughter to the audience. She supports me."

An hour later, Memo and Di threw off their dressing gowns to reveal their bikini-clad figures, clambered into the water tanks and began splashing around. On the screen next to them, the digital roses started piling up once more.



Read the whole story
DMack
7 hours ago
reply
Victoria, BC
Share this story
Delete

crazyforcars:1970s Mercedes models banking on the test track at...

1 Share


crazyforcars:

1970s Mercedes models banking on the test track at Unterturkheim, in Stuttgart

Read the whole story
DMack
7 hours ago
reply
Victoria, BC
Share this story
Delete

What Would Happen If Nestlé Took All the Water It Was Allowed To?

1 Comment

Ontario is chock-full of water. The province's lakes, streams, and aquifers are so abundant that it may feel like it'll never run out, and until recently, the province was giving water away to private companies for just fractions of pennies on the litre. 

NestléWaters Canada has been pumping groundwater from its Aberfoyle site near Guelph, Ontario since 1980, for the purpose of bottling it for sale. The company has a permit to take more than 3 million litres of water every day from that one site, but it has historically taken just about half of the allowed amount annually. 

So what would happen, environmentally speaking, if Nestlé consistently took all the water it's allowed to by the Ontario government? That question has taken on a new sense of urgency, as the province reviews the company's permit for renewal, and local activists and legislators are raising concerns about the company's effects on the local water supply. 

Read More: Nestlé Will Pay 13,500% More to Pump Ontario's Water for Bottling

A 2011 internal assessment approved by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, which Motherboard recently obtained through an access-to-information request, paints a troubling picture: pumping opened the possibility for higher stream temperatures and groundwater contamination, according to experts. The Ministry couldn't say for certain what sort of effects, if any, this would have on the local environment, however.

Here's how the current limits are set: Maximum water-taking volumes are proposed by the permit-seeker—in this case, Nestlé. The company seeking a permit is required to submit a scientific review proving that the requested daily water-taking levels are safe. Numerous companies have permits to pump groundwater in Ontario, some with larger maximum volumes than Nestlé.

Between 2002 and 2010, Nestlé was pumping on average just 61 percent of its allowed amount and "[planned] to increase its rate of water taking to more fully utilize the permitted volume," an internal assessment of Nestlé's 2009 and 2010 monitoring reports, approved by officials in emails, states. The assessment notes that pumping even 61 percent "diminishes groundwater discharge to Aberfoyle creek." In 2015, Nestlé pumped 58 percent of its allowed volume, according to the company's monitoring report. 

"The groundwater and surface streams are very well-connected systems and if you affect one, you affect the other"

Groundwater "discharge" (water coming up to the surface) and "recharge" (water going into the ground from the surface) together regulate everything from water levels, to stream temperature, to water quality on the surface and in the ground. 

"The groundwater and surface streams are very well-connected systems and if you affect one, you affect the other," said Joseph Desloges, a geography professor at the University of Toronto.

Since Nestlé planned to increase its water-taking, a 39-day pump test at the maximum allowed amount was conducted in 2010. The changes to discharge and recharge rates were so pronounced that a stream formerly gaining water from the ground started losing it; the water was being sucked back to the source. This resulted in a "loss of stream flow" and a possible increase in water temperature, the assessment states. 

Motherboard's request for comment from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry was forwarded to the provincial Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC). 

"The groundwater gradients were reversed at some of the locations monitored in Aberfoyle Creek during the 2010 pumping tests, but not at all of the locations," a Ministry spokesperson confirmed over email. "The groundwater level monitoring data since 2011 shows that the gradient reversal is short-term, highly dependent on a pumping rate and limited to monitoring locations installed on Nestlé's property."

However, the Ministry's ability to discern the effects of these changes on fish and vegetation in 2011 was "confounded," the assessment states, due to "very little data" on the stream and its inhabitants prior to 1980. Indeed, the assessment states, the ecological changes wrought by Nestlé's activities may have happened decades ago, but without data, it's impossible to say for sure. 

The final half of the report was not released under an exemption in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that covers the disclosure of advice from a public servant. Whatever the Ministry assessment proposed, we'll never know. 

While he couldn't speak to the specific situation in Aberfoyle, the most damaging eventuality stemming from shifts in discharge and recharge rates in general is groundwater contamination by surface pollutants, University of Waterloo hydrology professor Fereidoun Rezanezhad said.

"If the agriculture industry uses fertilizer and that contamination is going to surface water, and then if you increase recharge and decrease discharge, then that contamination can move to the groundwater," he said. 

A 2016 report from local hydrology company Harden Environmental, submitted to the township where Nestlé's Aberfoyle site is located, noted that well water contamination is a risk posed by Nestlé's water-taking. However, when I called Stan Denhoed, a hydrologist for Harden, he was quick to emphasize that recent data about current water-taking levels shows little impact. 

"There are small changes, but you can't measure it in the stream," Denhoed said over the phone. "The whole issue is do the fish survive, is the groundwater getting to them? The fact is yes."

Read More: The Standing Rock Water Protectors Aren't Leaving

A spokesperson for the MOECC noted that there are no issues with current water-taking levels. "The available data shows no long-term decline in the aquifer's water level and no unacceptable water quantity impact on the bedrock and overburden aquifers within the vicinity of Nestle's wells," the spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement. "The ministry does not expect any adverse impacts to the aquifer and local private wells with Nestlé's current water taking."

Despite the 2011 assessment's statement that it was impossible to discern the environmental effects of increased water-taking due to a lack of historical data, the spokesperson wrote that the Ministry "has not identified a knowledge gap about the environmental effects of the water taking."

A Nestlé Waters Canada spokesperson confirmed over email that the company has no plans to make fuller use of its maximum allowable volume for water-taking, and noted that the company's "actual water taking is based on consumer demand which varies from year to year and month to month."

Presumably, that stance would enable Nestlé to take all of the water it's allowed, if consumer demand rose to such an extent.

Nestlé's permit has expired but remains in force, pending a review by the provincial government. In response to public pressure from citizens and activists, the province recently put a moratorium on all new water-taking endeavors and increased the price Nestlé pays for every million litres of water, from $3.71 to $503.71. 

The Ministry has completed another internal assessment of Nestlé's recent water-taking for the current permit review, a spokesperson confirmed, and it will play a role in the decision whether or not to renew Nestlé's permit to pump water for bottling.

With files from Amanda Roth. 

Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter .



Read the whole story
DMack
8 hours ago
reply
"Numerous companies have permits to pump groundwater in Ontario, some with larger maximum volumes than Nestlé." Well yeah, but Nestle's the one your facebook friends are fixated on. For some reason.
Victoria, BC
Share this story
Delete

Just kidding. Why would I do a thread?

1 Comment
Read the whole story
DMack
8 hours ago
reply
actually posting dozens of tweets in a row is very good and nice and it's the best way to... (1/112)
Victoria, BC
Share this story
Delete

Refugees fleeing into Canada from the US (19 photos)

1 Comment and 3 Shares

Reuters photographer Christinne Muschi recently spent time at the end of a small country road in Hemmingford, Quebec, that dead-ends at the U.S.-Canada border, just across from another dead-end road near Champlain, New York. She was photographing refugees, traveling alone, or in small groups, who had taken taxis to the end of the road in the U.S., then walked across the border into Canada, into the custody of the RCMP. While the location is not an official border crossing, it is one of several spots that have become informal gateways to an increasing number of refugees choosing to leave the United States. Muschi reports that “in Quebec, 1,280 refugee claimants irregularly entered between April 2016 and January 2017, triple the previous year's total.” and that “the Canada Border Services Agency said in January that 452 people made a refugee claim at Quebec land border crossings.” Canadian advocacy groups say they are preparing for even more asylum-seekers, following increased anti-Muslim rhetoric in the U.S., and public expressions of welcome made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

A woman who told police that she and her family were from Sudan is confronted by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer as she arrives by taxi and attempts to walk across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec, on February 12, 2017. (Christinne Muschi / Reuters)
Read the whole story
DMack
2 days ago
reply
refugees fleeing the united states
Victoria, BC
Share this story
Delete

A 'cuck'? Is that like… a Teletubby?

1 Share

A 'cuck'? Is that like… a Teletubby?


Posted by andyproblems on Thu Feb 16 03:27:50 2017.


19 likes, 3 retweets
Read the whole story
DMack
3 days ago
reply
Victoria, BC
Share this story
Delete
Next Page of Stories