There’s a decent chance you’ve come across Shudu on Instagram. She’s constantly having cool adventures in New York and Paris, she models for some of the biggest fashion brands on the planet, and she has a huge following on Instagram. Oh, and she’s not real. Or at least, she’s not human: Shudu is one of the Diigitals, “the world’s first all digital modeling agency.” And she’s a big part of the future of the creator economy.
For the next three weeks on The Vergecast, we’re going to be exploring new parts of the business of being a creator. We’re going to dig deep on creator funds and how giant pools of platform money change the way those platforms operate. We’re going to look into livestreaming and why everything from shopping to sleeping is suddenly big live business.
But first, we’re diving headlong into the animated creators of the future. There’s Shudu but there’s also Nobody Sausage, Lil Miquela, and countless other popular creators and influencers who are actually animated characters. This isn’t a new phenomenon — the character Hatsune Miku has been doing live concerts for years, just to name one example — but it’s growing fast all over social media. And it raises some complicated questions: who benefits from these characters? Who loses out? And how does it change our relationships with our favorite creators when we’re seeing them as digital creations rather than live humans?
Producer Gina Pollack set out to answer those questions and many others. She came back with stories about why advertisers love digital creators, why sexy Colonel Sanders will never leave your brain, and what the creator industry is learning from Pixar. Next time you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed, keep your eyes peeled — not everyone’s as human as they look.