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Back from the dead
New Oriental's pivot into live-stream e-commerce
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Hong Kong shares of New Oriental (新东方 xīn dōng fāng), China’s largest private education company, surged 71% over the past week.
The company’s market capitalisation is less than a fifth of its peak in July 2020, which fell dramatically with the introduction of China’s Double Reduction policy (双减政策) which banned private education services.
The founder of the company is one of China’s favourite and toughest entrepreneurs, Yú Mǐnhóng 俞敏洪. According to Yu, the double reduction policy crushed his business:
According to Yu Minhong, in the second half of last year, New Oriental’s market value fell by 90%, operating income fell by 80%, and 60,000 employees were let go. The media called Yu Minhong ‘China’s unluckiest person of 2021’.
Six months ago, Yu pivoted. He launched Oriental Select (东方甄选 dōngfāng zhēnxuǎn), a live-streaming channel on Douyin, selling agricultural products.
Live-streamers are former New Oriental English teachers. They sell rice and other products to their audiences, while teaching English using a whiteboard.
Growth has been slow over the last six months with a sudden explosion of fans in the last week:
It took six months for Oriental Select to go from 0 to 1 million fans. But it took only a few days to go from 1 million to 3 million fans. As of 18:00 on June 13, the number of fans had risen to 3.47 million.
The sudden growth is down to a livestream by former English teacher Dǒng Yǔhuī 董宇辉 selling rice which went viral.
According to Yu and Dong, they are only just getting started (Sina):
‘This time Oriental Select has won some support from people. But this is only the beginning. It’s down to a combination of our English teaching with selling’, Yu said. The live-stream host, Dong Yuhui, who has quickly become known by many netizens, also commented on his personal Douyin account: ‘New Oriental has been pivoting for 6 months, and it has finally been noticed’.
So this week we explore conversations about New Oriental’s incredible pivot back from the dead.
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被网友们称为“最卷直播间”，俞敏洪创办的东方甄选，又把直播带货玩出新高度 - Described as the toughest live-streaming studio, Yu Minhong’s Oriental Select has taken live-stream e-commerce to new heights.
Note: evolved from 内卷 nèi juǎn, involuted, meaning intense social competition. The character 卷 juǎn has come to have a positive twist - meaning an ability to beat stiff competition. Another way to say it is 卷王 juǎn wáng - involution king, which we first discussed in November lat year.
翻红 fān hóng
recover from serious losses
双语带货直播爆火，新东方转型“翻红” - With the enormous success of bilingual live-stream e-commerce, New Oriental has turned things around and become a new online sensation.
Note: 翻红 fān hóng is an investment term meaning a stock that has made big losses but then its share price bounces back - going into the red (red indicates growth on China’s stock markets). Here it is also meant as a play on words - linked to 走红 zǒu hóng, becoming really popular.
挖坟 wā fén
digging the tomb; re-using archive content on social media
除此之外，还有“挖坟效应”存在，是指平台会不定期重新挖掘数据库里的“优质旧视频” - In addition, there is also the ‘tomb digging effect’, which is where the platforms re-use high quality content from its archives which then gets more engagement.
Note: usually refers to posts on online chatrooms which can get re-published by platforms and then go viral again.
一股清流 yī gǔ qīng liú
a breath of fresh air
粉丝们边看直播边涨知识，东方甄选成为最近直播间的一股清流 - Fans learn new things as they watch the live-streaming. Select has become a breath of fresh air in live-stream e-commerce.
Note: an Internet phrase which first appeared in 2016 following netizen comments about a celebrity TV show with around 1,000 celebs taking part.
咸鱼翻身 xián yú fān shēn
the salted fish has tuned over; come back from he dead
董宇辉咸鱼翻身，俞敏洪东山再起，一夜爆红的“东方甄选”能否拯救新东方？- Dong Yuhui has brought New Oriental back from the dead, and Yu Minhong has made a comeback. Can the overnight success of Oriental Select save New Oriental?
Note: this comes from a Cantonese idiom, salted fish is a metaphor for being dead.
More: 东山再起 dōng shān zài qǐ - make a comeback was first discussed in December 2021.
Consuming the conversation
寒冬 hán dōng
cold winter, a bad time for business
新东方的带货之路，要从去年教培寒冬说起 - The story of New Oriental’s live-streaming success starts from the darkest days of the education sector last year.
洗牌 xǐ pái
shuffle cards; shake things up
东方甄选的诞生与教培行业“大洗牌”密不可分 - The arrival of Oriental Select cannot be separated from the complete reshuffle of the education sector.
出圈 chū quān
make it big, go mainstream
新东方直播“火出了圈” - New Oriental’s live-stream e-commerce has become very popular and gone mainstream.
Note: last discussed in April this year.
增粉 zēng fěn
引导观众关注直播间，实现增粉指标 - Attract audiences to watch live-streams to increase the number of followers.
粘性 nián xìng
stickiness; connection with fans
传递知识和高频互动，是获得粉丝关注并且增加粘性的重要原因 - Sharing knowledge with a high level of interaction is an important reason why they have won so many new fans, and built such a good rapport with them.
脚底板 jiǎo dǐ bǎn
floorboards; very low, at the bottom
主播yoyo形容当时的东方甄选是个“脚底板直播间” - The live-streamer Yoyo described what it was like at Select at the beginning; it was like being in the worst of all live-stream studios.
突破口 tū pò kǒu
东方甄选的主播们靠着自身的尝试，找到了新的突破口 - Live-streamers on Oriental Select are trying through their own hard work to find a new way to make money.
胜负手 shèng fù shǒu
winning and losing move; decisive factor
流量、直播间（内容）、 供应链等运营能力环环相扣构筑的综合能力是竞争胜负手 - A combination of carefully integrated web traffic, online content and supply chain are the operational factors which bring the competitive edge.
Note: this a technical from the game Go 围棋 wéi qí.
惨不忍睹 cǎn bù rěn dǔ
too horrible to look at; terrible
在公司经营层面，新东方的业绩数据可谓“惨不忍睹” - Data on New Oriental operations looked awful.
Note: we first learned this idiom last December.
绝处逢生 jué chù féng shēng
unexpectedly rescued from a desperate situation
新东方双语带货，俞敏洪绝处逢生 - New Oriental bilingual live-streaming saved Yu Minhong from a desperate situation.
另辟蹊径 lìng pì qī jìng
do something differently
凭借另辟蹊径的双语带货，新东方在线旗下直播品牌“东方甄选”爆红 - With a different bilingual approach to live-streaming, New Oriental’s latest online brand, Oriental Select, has become very popular.
摇身一变 yáo shēn yī biàn
a quick change
老师摇身一变就成了达人资源 - The teacher quickly turned himself into an Internet celebrity.
Note: 达人 dá rén, a big name, online talent
恰逢其时 qià féng qí shí
东方甄选优质的直播内容及恰逢其时的时间节点引得流量青睐 - The quality of content of Oriental Select live-stream, and its timeliness have won lots of traffic on social media.
风雨兼程 fēng yǔ jiān chéng
working through trials and tribulations
东方甄选已经上路，剩下的就是风雨兼程 - Oriental Select is now on its way, but there’s a long road ahead.
昙花一现 tán huā yī xiàn
新东方的直播究竟能催生出新的带货模式，还是昙花一现的热度? - Can New Oriental start a new way of live-streaming, or will it just be a flash in the pan?
功夫不负有心人 gōng fū bù fù yǒu xīn rén
hard work pays off
功夫不负有心人。经过数月摸索后，东方甄选逐渐找到了属于自己的流量密码 - Hard work pays off. After several months of experimenting, Oriental Select is gradually discovering its secrets of how to generate web traffic.
去头部化 qù tóu bù huà
removing the head; moving away from being based around one or two big names
直播电商行业去头部化趋势是重要原因之一 - The trend of moving away from the big individual brand names of live-stream e-commerce is one factor why the smaller live-streamers are doing better.
Note: in other words it’s no longer just about the likes of Viya and Austin Li.
大雨倾盆而下 dà yǔ qīng pén ér xià
raining heavily, the heavens suddenly opened
大雨倾盆而下，新东方的热度则随着直播的突然爆火而急剧上升 - It happened so quickly, when Oriental Select became popular it enjoyed a rapid increase in its exposure.
Note: this could be translated as ‘when it rains it pours’ in English, but this tends to be used in negative situations. The phrase originates from a poem by Song dynasty poet, Sū Shì 苏轼, called Rain (雨意 yǔ yì) - see classics below.
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