Chinese people are hooked on short video apps. Scrolling through an endless feed of 15-second video clips of dancing girls or funny stunts is satisfying and addictive (and maybe not good for you, but that’s another story). Now video platforms are betting longer short videos will be the next big thing.

Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, started allowing all users to create one-minute videos, up from the previous limit of 15 seconds. The change is part of Douyin’s plan to encourage users to create vlogs, or video blogs. Filming daily life and editing it into a few minutes has been a popular form of YouTube videos in the West, but these only started to gain traction in China last year.

China’s first vloggers appeared in 2016, mostly overseas students who spotted the fad in the West. It started to become popular within the country once tech platforms were pushing the trend. Last September, Weibo started a project that allowed users who post more than four vlogs in 30 days the chance to become a “verified vlogger,” and Weibo will provide some unspecified form of support for promotion.

Douyin’s first vlog support project asks users to submit travel-themed vlogs. (Picture: Douyin)

Bilibili started a “30 day vlog challenge” that rewarded winners with gifts such as Bilibili membership and smartphone stabilizers. And Tencent, which has always wanted a piece in the short video market, also has an app named yoo to focus on vlogs.

Support for vlogging appears to be having an effect: Both WeChat Index (a mini program) and Baidu Index show that the popularity of the keyword “vlog” has been rising steadily since the beginning of the year. The most popular vloggers have garnered more than a million followers on Weibo, with video views in the tens of billions.

But vlogs are still much less popular than the traditional short videos that show up on these platforms, partly because of the difficulty of making quality vlogs. While almost anyone can snap a 15-second video, good vlogs require storytelling and thoughtful editing, which takes ability and energy that average users don’t have. That has led some Chinese media to call vlogs a fad manufactured by platforms.

Vlogs also might not be as sustainable without a clear means of revenue for creators. While YouTube rewards creators with the platform’s own advertising income, platforms and vloggers in China don’t currently have an established business model.

Douyin’s plan is similar to Weibo’s: Pick good vloggers, verify them and then help promote them. But in a country where people are addicted to scrolling through video clips a few seconds long, will users get hooked on these longer forms of storytelling?

One Weibo user looking to film a quick video seemed confused by the longer format altogether.

“Just realized Douyin lets you post one-minute long videos now,” the user said. “I was wondering why it was taking so long and still hadn’t finished.”