RISE OF THE CY­BER­STAR ECON­OMY

Post­ing self­ies and videos on so­cial me­dia plat­forms isn’t just a way of shar­ing one’s life hap­pen­ings with friends any­more — it’s now a way to make a for­tune off ad­ver­tis­ers and mar­keters

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By WANG YING in Shang­hai

The emer­gence of cy­ber­stars is a phe­nom­e­non that co­in­cides with the per­me­ation of the In­ter­net in daily life and it in­di­cates that the way of life, cul­ture, ed­u­ca­tion and me­dia are

on the eve of a rev­o­lu­tion.”

celebrity pro­fes­sor of Fu­dan Univer­sity

wang_y­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

News of Chi­nese on­line celebrity Papi Jiang se­cur­ing 12 mil­lion yuan ($1.85 mil­lion) in ven­ture cap­i­tal fund­ing has ig­nited a de­bate over whether a “cy­ber­star econ­omy” has just been cre­ated in China.

The 29-year-old Shang­hai woman, whose real name is Jiang Yilei, shot to fame us­ing Weibo, China’s equiv­a­lent of Twit­ter. Un­like many of the other Chi­nese on­line celebri­ties who usu­ally post self­ies of them­selves in fash­ion­able clothes or at glitzy events, Jiang’s ap­peal is her no-frills and satir­i­cal com­men­tary on ev­ery­day is­sues. Jiang was in 2015 rated num­ber two in a rank­ing of Chi­nese In­ter­net celebri­ties by China In­ter­net Weekly, only af­ter Wang Si­cong, the son of China’s real es­tate ty­coon Wang Jian­lin.

Since pub­lish­ing her first batch of clips in July last year, Jiang, who is a grad­u­ate stu­dent from the Cen­tral Academy of Drama in Bei­jing, has amassed a fol­low­ing of more than 9 mil­lion fol­low­ers. Each of the video clips posted on her WeChat ac­count has been viewed more than 100,000 times.

Ac­cord­ing to the Xin­hua News Agency, Jiang was re­port­edly val­ued at 300 mil­lion yuan even be­fore she re­ceived the fund­ing. On April 21, an auction for the first ad­ver­tise­ment to ap­pear on Jiang’s video feeds will be held on Alibaba.

“The pop­u­lar­ity of such clips among young peo­ple are at­trac­tive to ven­ture cap­i­tal in­vestors. This dra­matic and self-cen­tered way of ex­pres­sion is typ­i­cal of what young ne­ti­zens do on so­cial me­dia these days. This is what started the in­vest­ment in In­ter­net star­lets,” said Yu Hai, a so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at Fu­dan Univer­sity.

Gu Xiaoming, a pro­fes­sor from Fu­dan Univer­sity, said that the emer­gence of cy­ber­stars is a phe­nom­e­non that co­in­cides with the per­me­ation of the In­ter­net in daily life and it in­di­cates that the way of life, cul­ture, ed­u­ca­tion and me­dia are on the eve of a rev­o­lu­tion.

The con­cept of cy­ber­stars is not new, but it has now evolved into a vi­able plat­form for brand­ing, this is a stage that for­mer Chi­nese In­ter­net star­lets never reached, said Shen Yang, a pro­fes­sor from Ts­inghua Univer­sity.

And it seems that age and life ex­pe­ri­ence are in­con­se­quen­tial when it comes to be­ing an In­ter­net sen­sa­tion. One such ex­am­ple is 15-year-old Cana­dian blog­ger Karisma Collins who started us­ing so­cial me­dia about four years ago.

She cur­rently has more than 400,000 com­bined fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram and Face­book, as well as more than 685,000 on mu­si­cal.ly, a music video com­mu­nity site. Most of the teenager’s posts on so­cial me­dia are of her pos­ing in var­i­ous out­fits and the ma­jor­ity of her fol­low­ers are re­port­edly girls aged from 12 to 24. Each of her re­cent posts on In­sta­gram is liked by more than 10,000 fol­low­ers.

“To be hon­est, my fa­vorite part and their monthly sales ex­ceed 1 mil­lion yuan.

“As much as 615.3 bil­lion yuan of clothes in China was sold through e-com­merce in 2014, of which clothes pro­moted by a cy­ber­star ac­counted for 100 bil­lion yuan. There is also a huge po­ten­tial in us­ing these stars to pro­mote other in­dus­tries such as gam­ing, tourism and plas­tic surgery,” wrote Lv Ming, an in­dus­trial an­a­lyst with Guo­tai Jun’an Se­cu­ri­ties, in a 23-page re­port in Jan­uary.

Ac­cord­ing to Ding Chengling, the founder of an es­tab­lish­ment that helps ed­u­cate cy­ber­stars, some of these in­di­vid­u­als have also been of­fered op­por­tu­ni­ties in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try that range from ap­pear­ing in shows, pro­mo­tions, tele­vi­sion se­ries to even movies, ac­cord­ing to their pop­u­lar­ity.

Chen Yujin, founder of Shang­hai-based dig­i­tal celebrity in­cu­ba­tor Tophot, said that the trend has val­i­dated her be­lief that her busi­ness idea is full of po­ten­tial. Chen aims to de­sign tai­lor-made styles for ev­ery one of the more than 100 In­ter­net star­lets who have signed up with her com­pany. Tophot’s mo­bile plat­form at­tracted more than 500,000 users within three months of its launch in Novem­ber 2015.

“Just like the yacht in­dus­try 10 years ago, when peo­ple barely knew about it, the dig­i­tal celebrity econ­omy has a very bright fu­ture,” said Chen, who started her busi­ness of pro­duc­ing In­ter­net celebri­ties in Fe­bru­ary 2015.

“We want to over­throw the tra­di­tional opin­ion that cy­ber­stars are un­like gen­eral artistes. As a mat­ter of fact, we have al­ready re­ceived some ad­ver­tis­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties from af­ford­able lux­ury brands and the top dig­i­tal celebrity with us has al­ready reached a sim­i­lar level as third-tier artists, based on ap­pear­ance fees at shows,” added Chen.

Ding said that to­day’s cy­ber­stars will need to keep up with the ev­er­chang­ing In­ter­net trends by con­sis­tently gen­er­at­ing cre­ative con­tent to en­gage their au­di­ences or risk be­ing for­got­ten, even if they are as pop­u­lar as Papi Jiang.

CHINA DAILY PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO

Papi Jiang (above) and Karisma Collins are In­ter­net sen­sa­tions in their own coun­tries.

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