Streaming Host’s Death Highlights Industry’s Health Costs

Fans were saddened by the sudden death by exhaustion of online gaming host Gu Wang. Gu Wang, a hard-working host whose live broadcasts began at midnight and ran until 9 am. Media reported that Gu Wang suffered burn-out and died because of his unhealthy lifestyle. According to records from his channel, he was streaming a show on the day he died.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2017 was awarded jointly to three American scientists “for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm.” Their discovery revealed how detrimental it is for people to stay up late. But in fact, many people work the night shift.

Unfortunately, I am one of them. I often need to publish articles on official accounts at 1 am or 2 am. My night shift usually ends before 2 am. On the other hand, hosts like Gu Wang have to work nine hours through the night, which can severely damage their health.

Who doesn’t know burning the midnight oil is harmful? Who doesn’t want to stay in bed in the cold winter? Still, Gu Wang began his living streams at midnight to be more competitive.

Burning the midnight oil is just an excuse for Gu Wang’s death, which captures the tough situation faced by online hosts and hostesses. Many only see how live streaming hosts and hostesses receive gifts and make easy money by singing, dancing and chatting in their studio.

As the live streaming industry has expanded, requirements have plummeted for hosts or hostesses who can make handsome money by eating, sleeping or playing games in front of the camera.

However, the hardship behind the scenes is generally overlooked by the public. Most hosts face considerable suffering.

Sure, some gain more than 10 million yuan thanks to virtual gifts from fans. But very few ever reach the top. According to the Research Report on China’s Internet Anchors released by Jinri Wanghong (Today’s Internet Celebrity), of the Top 1,000 anchors on Yingke, Huajiao and Yizhibo, their accumulated income stands at 199,665 yuan. Some 45 percent of them had a monthly income of less than 5,000 yuan, and 17 percent were in the range of 5,000-7,000 yuan. Only 13 percent earned more than 30,000 yuan.

That is to say, most hosts earn less than a common office worker. From the income distribution, Internet celebrities also follow the rule of “winner takes all.” Data shows that the top 5 percent of hosts earn 92.8 percent of the money: the top 1 percent accounts for 80 percent.

To capture more attention, some anchors have made bold attempts. Broadcasting at midnight is nothing compared to others who livestream themselves robbing graves, making love or vomiting.

Wang Mizi, nicknamed Big Stomach, once ate 4 kilograms of rice, Braised Chicken and Rice for 10 people, more than 100 baozi, and 100 chicken wings. Hosts who failed to gain weight after their eating sprees were accused of vomiting out what they ate. Some have admitted to such and apologized in their videos.

Binge eating and purging is an extreme action that is no less harmful than staying up late. Worse still, some hosts develop anorexia nervosa and vomit out whatever they eat. The late Princess Diana was reportedly disturbed by symptoms after adopting emetic methods.

Many Internet celebrities make a living by using their faces to attract traffic and sacrifice their health for more money. But without good health or even life, how can one have a better future?

Live streaming has fundamentally changed the supply chain logic, promotion methods and even the ways to make a star, creating opportunities for common people to shoot to fame and make quick money.

Undoubtedly, online platforms offer Internet celebrities an overwhelmingly powerful mechanism to make money, thus changing the trajectory of many industries and individuals. Actually, live streaming platforms not only provide a window for common people pursuing wealth and better future, but also test their wisdom and vision.

In the beginning, a young lad singing on his bed in Northeastern China might cause a sensation; a super player could be rewarded handsomely by staying up late playing with online players; an Internet celebrity who kept fit in spite of overeating much might capture attention.

However, the cruel reality is the lower threshold for competitors means intense competition. In the future, as mobile live streaming platforms become mainstream, live streaming will be more segmented. Those at the top have huge traffic and and an enormous audience, and those at the bottom will struggle to make ends meet.

In the future, a common Internet anchor cannot stay popular for long only with good looks, luck or hard work. Quality content – rare as always – is the key for lasting popularity. Are you ready, anchors?

This article originally appeared in The Economic Observer and was translated by Pandaily.