May 23, 2016

    Incubators hatch China's next Web stars


    WITH online celebrities becoming more popular in China, many incubators have emerged to capitalise on the trend.

    These agencies make it easier for cyberstars to sell their products and even help promising candidates engineer a path to success.

    A Tencent report of online celebrities says many incubators are now in operation, and the number is growing quickly.

    "Online celebrities in the past had to rely on themselves but now many have incubators or agencies working with them," said Zhang Xiaorong, a senior researcher at Tencent Research Institute.

    "The birth of incubators means that in the online celebrity arena, star-making factories have appeared."

    Although the result of their work is not clear yet, it indicates that cyber celebrities can be "made" in batches.

    Yang Ping, general manager of Hangzhou Online Celebrities E-Commerce, said the growth of online-celebrity incubators in the past few months has been explosive.

    She set up an incubator in June and has signed six people, mostly young, attractive women.

    She plans to sign two dozen by the end of this year.

    Ruhan E-commerce, a major incubator that signed its first celebrity in 2014, has worked with 50 personalities so far.

    A report by Guotai Junan Securities shows that by the end of this year, the number of online shops that Ruhan oversees will hit more than 100.

    Feng Min, founder of Ruhan, said a key attribute of a cyberstar is being able to interact well with clients and followers.

    "Online celebrities can bring a very high number of clicks to the brands and they are most able to persuade followers to purchase products."

    Incubators help online stars do research and showcase their expertise to boost their following.

    Some may pitch in to find good supply-chain partners and help their clients sell products on e-commerce sites like Taobao, explained Mr Feng.

    Ms Yang said the key for online celebrities is to have their own distinct style.

    "We like to show more respect towards their personalities and would not plan anything that may not go well with their characteristics," she added.