Like in Western countries, many young Chinese people dream of a successful career on the Internet or on social media.
A Different Generation
The young Chinese generation is very different from the one of their parents. They are more risk-taking and the generation is full of experimenters and dreamers. Half of them don’t want to work in a traditional environment (factory, office…) after their graduation, according to a QQ Browser (Tencent) research, which polled 13,000 college students and mined data from its 84-million daily Internet search traffic.
This result is mostly due to the fast growth of China’s economy, and the huge development of new technologies and social media (Weibo, WeChat, Meipai, live-streaming, etc.).
“Online Celebrity” is the new “Astronaut”
When millennials are surveyed about their dream job, their answer is clear: with 54% of the answers, online celebrity (live-streamer, blogger) is chosen way before voice-actor (17%) and make-up artist (11%). Different types of online influencers exist, but among them we mostly find two: the “original creators” who post new content, like Papi Jiang, and the “fashionistas”, who promote brands (fashion, cosmetics…) on social-media.
Their success is not a surprise as online celebrities are perceived as more down-to-earth and approachable than their showbiz counterparts. That is why their fans are devoted and unlike with movie stars and top musicians, they get a lot of access and interaction with their favorite Internet celebrity (even if it’s regularly their assistants behind the keyboard).
Online Celebrities Incubators are Booming
According to CBNData, a commercial data company affiliated with Alibaba, the “Internet celebrity economy” has reached 58 billion RMB ($8.4 billion) in 2016, more than China’s box office in 2015.
This enormous earning potential has led to the rise of incubators in China, like Tophot (30,000 emerging Internet celebrities). They provide training for future online influencers (also called Key Opinion Leaders or KOL), with photography, make-up and performance services.
They also represent internet celebrities and help them find jobs, for example getting involved with product endorsements. In return, they take a percentage of their earnings.
About 50 Internet celebrity incubators exist in China. However, some investors worry about the long-term prospects of the industry since many factors behind the popularity of Internet celebrities cannot be duplicated, like a specific buzz, appearance, etc.
We can estimate the failure rate of investment of Internet celebrity incubators at 95% or above.
Competition is also very fierce. Ling Ling, an internet influencer confesses that she sometimes feels insecure: “There are so many [social media] platforms and new internet celebrities. There are more and more pretty girls… Even for top internet celebrities, if they do not work hard, people may not know them at all in a few years.”
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