Why is web celeb Papi Jiang worth USD 15M for her funny videos?

Papi Jiang, a grassroots video producer, has landed herself RMB 12 million (USD 1.8 million) from four investors including Zhen Fund and online video show Logic Talk Show. Her videos have gotten more than 290 million hits on major media platforms in just four months.

Four investors bought a 12% stake for RMB 12 million, valuing Papi Jiang at RMB 100
million, according to Tencent Tech.

There are doubts over whether Chinese VCs have gone nuts, throwing their cash at an internet celebrity. But rumor has it that Papi Jiang has partnered with the agent of AngelaBaby, one of the hottest Chinese female stars at the moment. The agent, Yang Ming, turns out to be Papi Jiang’s college classmate.

According to Thomas Luo, founder of Chinese tech blog Pingwest, Yang, a capable agent, is starting his own business to create the next Angelababy, starting with Papi Jiang.


It seems a possible, and even promising, road to monetize the huge group of emerging internet celebrities. Then who is this girl being bet on by these top Chinese VCs?

She is a 29-year-old from Shanghai who calls herself Papi Jiang. “Jiang” is an affectionate way of addressing girls and kids in Japanese. A graduation candidate at the Central Academy of Drama, she returned for a master’s degree in directing after working for four years. She started this thing for fun, while her professional skills are making her videos highly successful. She stars in, directs, films, and edits all the videos herself.

Papi Jiang targets post-90s generation and talks about the things they’re interested in. She listed a thousand reasons that someone’s girlfriend doesn’t like the gifts he buys, made fun of ten popular but terrible Chinese films, and gives tips on how to deal with relatives who hound you with questions about how much you earn and why you are still single.

Part of the comedy is that she speaks in a high, sped-up voice with the help of an audio tool, a hilarious juxtaposition to her knitted brows and a serious face. In the latest episode, she played four different roles, wearing different clothes, hairstyles and facial expressions. With skillful editing, this video created a skit of four co-workers bitching about a female colleague behind her back, getting more than 100,000 page views on WeChat.

Papi Jiang’s video to persuade a friend to dump her womanizing boyfriend, using Shanghainese and English. 

As of Tuesday, she had more than eight million followers on Weibo, and her WeChat public account, which was registered last September, has drawn more than 10 million followers, according to Chinese social media ranking platform New Rank.

There’s background to why Papi Jiang stands out among the thousands of internet celebs.

In 2015, as various short video filming apps have gotten more popular, video content providers including journalists or independent bloggers have emerged to carve up general audience time.

Papi Jiang is one of the “We Media” that is growing with the help of platforms like Miaopai, a short video sharing platform. All of her videos are around three to four minutes long. For her audience, a group of youngsters that are active online for scattered fragments of time, watching short videos that don’t demand a lot of data or headwork has become their favorite way to kill time on the subway and during lunch breaks.

So how did Papi Jiang get over five million hits for each of her videos?

The key is to keep driving public interest. Papi Jiang is very good at catering to millennials. First, she is hot, but she doesn’t follow the same old routine of good-looking internet celebrities showing off their beauty and clothes. Instead, she creates a kind of self-deprecating humor using exaggerated grimaces and a squeaky voice.

Then she selects the trendiest topics. According to comments from her fans, what she says on videos either makes them burst into laughter, or expresses their inner feelings. In one of her “how to survive as a boyfriend” series, she spits and jokes about women tormenting their boyfriends with their nitpicking. Using a light tone, she shares relationship tips, which gained her a lot of male fans.

Undoubtedly, her huge fanbase is why VCs are investing. Next, people are starting to question how she, or her team, is going to make money out of these followers.

Papi Jiang and Luo Zhenyu, founder of Logic Talk Show
Papi Jiang and Luo Zhenyu, founder of Logic Talk Show. Photo from http://www.cy580.com

AllChinaTech has a story on how to make money as an amateur content producer in China. Most bloggers who have reached a certain readership have started to make money by embedding advertisements in their content, getting money for articles, selling things to followers or earning subsidies from huge platforms by signing partnerships with them.

Papi Jiang’s investor, Luo Zhenyu, the founder of Logic Talk Show, is himself one of the “We Media”, and has been a rather successful example of making money as an independent content producer, mainly through paid VIP services and selling customized books to his audience.

Luo kickstarted his cooperation with Papi Jiang by launching an auction in April where advertisers will bid to embed ads in her videos. He is planning 100 seats for the auction, with a price tag as high as RMB 8,000 per seat!

Let’s wait and see how many company owners will actually buy into it.

AllTechAsia Staff

AllTechAsia is a startup media platform dedicated to providing the hottest news, data service and analysis on the tech and startup scene of Asian markets in English.

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