Chinese tech bosses discuss web celebs at GMIC

Wang Gaofei (the CEO of Sina Weibo), Fu Sheng (the CEO of Cheetah Mobile, a mobile tools provider), and Li Mingyuan, (VP of Baidu, in charge of Baidu’s mobile service group) held a public discussion at yesterday’s Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC), centering on one of the hottest topics in Chinese cyberspace, the wanghong. Wanghong can be translated into English as “web celebrity”, but it is not an exact equivalent to web celebrities in America. Because of this, we will directly use the Chinese term “wanghong”.

How do these leaders of Chinese internet business define this word? Why do they think this word has suddenly become a buzzword in 2016? What are the most common types of Wanghong?

AllChinaTech has the answers from three big tech bosses at GMIC Beijing. Read this story to find some hand picked quotes from them that might surprise you.

Gaofei Wang speaking at the conference (photo by Danielle Li)
Gaofei Wang speaking at the conference (photo by Danielle Li)

Wanghong: an old term but a new phenomenon
According to Fu Sheng, Papi Jiang is not a unique case as a wanghong, because it’s a worldwide phenomenon that occurs in places like the US as well. Disney bought a web celebrity incubator company, Maker Studios, for USD 500 million. The reason that this concept has become so hot is because they found ways to monetize.

Chinese actors and actresses have gone through three stages in monetizing. First is earning money from legal copyright; second is the involvement of investors in stars’ studios. The third phase is what is happening today: thousands of wanghong on Weibo making big money by opening online Taobao shops. Fu Sheng also illustrated this concept with a project that his Ziniu Fund had invested in: a mother-to-be with a master’s degree in medicine writes blogs for mothers and mothers-to-be, and made RMB 32 million in sales last month. Fu also thinks that the “wanghong economy” is just about to truly start.

The online world becoming more “real” than real life is what created the wanghong
Li Mingyuan spoke from a different perspective. He said that the term wanghong has been used for a long time. But what’s the difference between wanghong today compared with their predecessors? Nowadays, the virtual world has become even more real than the actual world, so showing their real lives in the online world contributes to the fame of some web celebrities. He mentioned that he has been studying netizens as a group, and the people that he wants to meet and talk with the most are two wanghong, one male and one female.

Three main methods for wanghong to monetize
Wang, as the CEO of Weibo – a platform that many web celebrities use as a base and as a launch pad – knows about this emerging industry very well. He says that several years ago, no matter how popular web celebrities were, their incomes were generated from offline activities or from a single channel: advertising.

“In the present day, for the vast majority of people online, they are spending more time online than in real life. New methods of monetizing online fame have emerged. On Weibo, there are three main kinds. First, the e-commerce type, which means to sell cosmetics or clothes to a huge fan base that the wanghong has accumulated; and second, the Papi Jiang type, which I think are the kind that use their talent, either in making videos or writing, to monetize using advertising that they post along with their own content. The last type is live streamers, who please their audience to make money.”

Here are some other interesting quotes from the bosses.

Quotes from Fu Sheng

Cheetah Mobile’s CEO came off as being witty and candid during the panel.

1. “I am not a wanghong, because most netizens come to criticize me on my Weibo account.” Fu has around three million followers on Weibo. If you click the post that he pinned at the top, there are indeed many netizens responding to him with abuse. Fu is also relentless in fighting back.

2. “Some people say that Papi Jiang [who sold a one-time chance to advertise in one of her videos at over RMB 20 million] is just a fad, but I say it’s a start of a new phenomenon.” It sure is, because Cheetah Mobile also announced the launch of an app to create an incubation platform for wanghongs.

3. “I bought myself a Tesla S P90D. I took a ride on Beijing’s fifth ring road and did a live stream at the same time.” It’s not surprising that he owns a Tesla; after all, his company has achieved a growth rate of over 100% in revenue in five consecutive years, with RMB 3.68 billion earned in 2015. But dude, live streaming while driving? Isn’t that a bit dangerous?

4. “Our businesses in China are not doing so well, because we are faced with strong competitors.”

5. “After all these years of experience, I don’t think internationalizing a company is as hard as I imagined. All you need is the right method and a strong will.”

6. “Three people I want to have a meet and talk to are big shots in artificial intelligence and robotics. But I don’t know which three are among the top of the list in the industry.” Yesterday he announced that Cheetah Mobile will invest USD 50 million in making robots. Guys, don’t hesitate to help this boss out with recommendations!

Quotes from Wang Gaofei:

People who were at this roundtable talk today might think Wang is a somewhat rigid man. Check out his private Weibo account, you might find out that he is a totally different person online – witty and funny.

1. “Letting a robot learn a vast of data is not better than letting it learn human behavior.”

2. “Weibo doesn’t have a plan to grow in the overseas market – our domestic rivals are too competitive.”

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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