China’s internet users in smaller cities, representing more than half of total netizens in the world’s most-populous nation, remain heavily attached to their mobile phones and are spending an increasing amount of their online time glued to short video content, according to the findings of a newly-released report.
Over 80 per cent of netizens in lower tier Chinese cities – classed as tier-three to tier-five in the study – described the mobile phone as their favourite pastime and said they were happy to spend almost all their leisure time on it, according to a report released on Tuesday by Penguin Intelligence, the research arm of China internet giant Tencent.
Their online habits differ with the online behaviour of netizens in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, and 20.8 per cent of smaller city users in the survey said they accessed the mobile internet all night without sleep, compared with 16.8 per cent in first-tier cities. 68.3 per cent of lower-tier city users said they preferred to read novels online and access short video content before they go to bed, compared with 53.6 per cent in first-tier cities, whose netizens prefer TV series, films and social networking.
China’s internet users have more than tripled the amount of time they spend watching short videos in the last year, according to the China Internet Report co-authored by the South China Morning Post, Abacus and 500 Startups. The number of monthly active users for short video apps in China doubled in 2017 to 414 million, according to the report. Mobile users in other countries are also embracing the format, making short-video apps the latest export from China's internet industry.
The live-streaming market has enjoyed explosive growth in China in recent years, and is estimated to be worth US$4.4 billion in 2018 with viewer numbers topping 456 million, according to a Deloitte report. However, the growth in popularity has also coincided with a crackdown on content deemed inappropriate by Beijing.
Netizens in lower-tier Chinese cities spend more money on online content, such as games and video memberships, with 24.9 per cent of them spending over 500 yuan on online content per month compared with 20.7 per cent for first-tier city netizens.
Although online shopping is popular among lower-tier city netizens, only 41.8 per cent of them purchase products online compared with a penetration ratio of 51 per cent in first-tier cities.
And 27.9 per cent of internet users in lower-tier cities describe themselves as being part of the moonlight clan, a Chinese term used to describe those who live check-to-check, spending their entire salary every month, compared with 23.6 per cent in first-tier cities, with the rate higher for women.
However, 70 per cent of netizens in lower-tier cities said they sometimes feel “bored” with the information they receive from their mobile phones and are waiting for more interesting and entertaining online products.
Netizens in lower-tier cities go to work earlier, with 60 per cent of them arriving at around 8:00am, and 17 per cent of them have flexible working time. This compared with a start time of 9:00am for half of people surveyed in first-tier cities.
The Tencent report findings were based on the responses of 4,698 people, 900 of whom came from first-tier cities.