The format emerged in China years ago, then became ubiquitous during the coronavirus pandemic. Now nearly half of China's one billion Internet users have tried it, while it remains largely unfamiliar to the West.

To Americans, it may be reminiscent of television shopping - but interactive and, as a result, far more compelling.

The most successful streams are as much entertainment as they are sales pitches. Hosts hawk everything from makeup to microwaves, in an energetic patter that marries the urgency of an auctioneer with the intimacy of an old friend.

They tell jokes and personal anecdotes to hold viewers’ attention. They call individual fans by name to earn their trust. They promise exclusive deals to win their dollars.

FOR VIEWERS, the appeal is not only convenience, but also the feeling of being catered to. They can ask a host modeling clothing to show it from a different angle, or inquire how long a snack will keep.

They place orders in the stream, never interrupting the host's spiel.

The yurt stood in the middle of a sweeping northern Chinese grassland, beneath a cloudless sky.  A reedy folk tune played. Nearby, sheep grazed.

SUDDENLY, the livestream which had been showing the idyllic vista, cut to a man in his 30s, wearing a Mongolian hat with a pointed golden spire. 

''Welcome, brothers and sisters!'' he announced from his perch atop a platform bed.

'' How's the signal? I set up Wi-Fi in my yurt.'' He held up a bag of beef jerky, branded with a cartoon image of his face. '' If it's your first time here, I am Taiping, and I make beef jerky.''

It was another day at work for Taiping, a Chinese livestreaming salesman. Illuminated with carefully arranged studio lights and speaking into two iPhones propped up on a table, Taiping began wooing the thousands of viewers who tapped into his channel.

He dangled unwrapped jerky before the camera, describing traditional Mongolian air-drying techniques. He shredded it with his fingers to show its tenderness.

Viewers, by tapping comments, sent REAL-TIME questions that bubbled from the bottom of the video feed, about how spicy it was or which flavor was best.

[Taping, who read each comment aloud, suggested buying half original, half cumin.] Some longtime fans sent animated pink hearts or thumbs-up symbols, while others simply wanted to say hello.

''I missed you, too,'' Taiping, who like many ethnic Mongolians uses only one name, replied to one viewer.

By the end of the four-hour session, during which he barely paused to drink water, he had received more than 650 orders, totalling $15,000.

Taiping is one of countless Chinese riding the explosive wave of influencer culture and live online videos in the country to transform the way people buy and sell.

Last year alone, an estimated $500 billion worth of goods were sold via livestream on apps Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, or Kuaishou, another short video platform - an eightfold increase since 2019.

Star streamers have become celebrities. The most famous, including Li Jiaqi - whose prowess at trying on and pitching makeup products earned him the nickname the ''lipstick king'' are able to attract tens of millions of viewers per session.

Kim Kardashian once appeared with another top Chinese streamer, Viya, to produce her perfume in China, selling 15,000 bottles within minutes.

The Publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks author Vivian Wang.


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