Internet celebs: a force to be reckoned with
China’s online celebrity phenomenon has become an emerging industry that has real investment value and is sustained mainly by short videos, live streaming and internet-based commerce, according to the 2016 Online Celebrity White Paper.
Jointly published on June 16 by Sina Weibo and iResearch, the white paper provides an extensive analysis on the cyber celebrity-related economy. It states that cyber influencers are competing in terms of appearance, content, teamwork and production ability, while shifting their focus gradually to the use of videos, live streaming and online commerce to engage their fans.
Wang Gaofei, CEO of Sina Weibo, said that in this mobile Internet era, content consumption has become more fragmented and social media currently provides the biggest entrance to the new consumer market.
“There is no substantial difference in the grooming of a cyber celebrity and traditional celebrity. However, the followers of online influencers tend to be more loyal. We believe the boundary between the two will become increasingly vague in the future,” said Wang.
A survey conducted by iResearch and Weibo shows that as of May this year, the number of people following some 360,000 Weibo celebrity accounts grew nearly threefold to 385 million in the last two years.
The massive fan base has subsequently allowed Weibo celebrities to amplify their voice — in the first five months of 2016, these celebrity accounts garnered more than 710 billion views as well as 2.9 billion likes, shares or comments.
Of the 360,000 accounts factored in the survey, 74 percent are owned by female celebrities. Meanwhile, 87.8 percent of account users are aged between 17 and 33 while 89 percent of them went to college, said Zou Lei, co-president of iResearch Consulting.
The numbers also showed that most of the online celebrities are from more economically developed regions such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces.
The survey found that most of the followers of online celebrities are young people with high education levels — 77.8 percent of the followers are aged between 17 and 33, and 75 percent have graduated from college. Males make up the majority of the followers, accounting for 57.8 percent. Meanwhile, Beijing, Jiangsu, and Guangdong are home to the largest number of followers.
In the first quarter of this year, daily viewing durations of video clips posted on Weibo soared 489 percent year-onyear. Papi Jiang, an online celebrity who often posts comedic speed-talking monologues, uploaded 69 videos between January and March, and views of her videos hit 246 million, accounting for 45.6 percent of all video views on Weibo. She has about 15.9 million followers on Weibo.
Papi Jiang is widely recognized as the most significant online celebrity in China to date. The 29-year-old woman, whose real name is Jiang Yilei, is a graduate from the Central Academy of Drama and had in March received 12 million yuan in venture capital.
In the e-commerce arena, online celebrities are expected to cash on their Weibo views by cooperating with online shopping platforms. The most notable example is Papi Jiang, who earlier this year auctioned off her first advertising spot for 22 million yuan on Alibaba’s auction platform.
The white paper also said that the professionalism of the online celebrity economy in China is still in its infancy — only 23.8 percent of cyber celebrities in China have signed contracts with professional agents. It also forecast that the competition for resources and platforms will become fiercer as more capital flows into the industry.
There is no substantial difference in the grooming of a cyber celebrity and traditional celebrity. However, the followers of online influencers tend to be more loyal.” CEO of Sina Weibo
Bai Yimeng in Shanghai contributed to this story.