How can the internet celebrity economy in China make up USD 8.7 B per year?

Chinese spending on the “web-celeb economy” is booming. It has also facilitated a boom in a list of related industries, including live streaming, social media, and other forms of entertainment.

This celebrity economy in China is expected to make an annual revenue of RMB 58 billion (USD 8.7 billion) in 2016, according to a CBNData report. The report was based on data from government agencies, Alibaba Group, Chinese social media Sina Weibo and video site Youku Tudou. By contrast, the 2015 box office spending on film tickets in China was RMB 44 billion, (USD 6.78 billion).

The report shows that the largest group of consumers of the celebrity economy are young people aged between 23 and 28, accounting for 49% of the consuming population. It also listed a ranking of web celebrities rising from the world of e-commerce, with three factors taken into consideration: the number of fans, the ability to make profits, and the potential for future development.

Yet web celebrities are not limited to those who gained popularity on e-commerce platforms; videos and live streaming are producing more web celebs than ever as well. For example, web celebrity “Papi Jiang”, widely known for her funny videos, was valued by investors at RMB 100 million in March. Her live streaming debut on Monday attracted over 20 million viewers and brought in virtual gifts – a form of de facto online currency – worth more than RMB 900,000.

A report on “web celebrities in 2016” jointly published by iResearch and Sina Weibo selected over 30,000 web celebrities, and found that the total population of their fans grew from 100 million to 385 million in the past year, and that 24% of the celebrities have signed with a talent agency. iQIYI even positioned its live streaming business Qixiu as a platform that helps streamers become superstars.

Having a pretty face does not ensure long-lasting popularity. Web celebrities, who are themselves a form of intellectual pro, only survive and thrive when backed by a supportive team: for example, marketing via various platforms is an indispensable factor in maximizing the revenue created by a celebrity.

(Top photo from Baidu Images)

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