WeChat: the Most Populous Messaging App and Much More

With an average of 570 million users logging in each day, WeChat, the Chinese mobile app is for sure the most popular social networking platform in the most populous country. It is not only a free messaging and calling app, but additionally, allow users to read news articles, play games, do shopping, track exercise data and etc.

It is always a difficult task for me to describe what WeChat really it. The best description I found is that WeChat is the combination of the functions of eBay, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, and Whatsapp“.

Yes, WeChat has it all.  It is worth asking how this social media giant shapes people’s reading habits in China.

Chinese read over 40 mins/day on WeChat 

Due to the change of reading brought by WeChat, the social network was the first time to be included in the National Reading Survey conducted by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication.

Wechat Logo
WeChat logo. Source: WeChat blog

According to this latest annual survey released in April, Chinese adults read news and threads on WeChat for more than 40 minutes a day on average.

What is also shown in the report, is that the majority (66.4%) of Chinese adults used WeChat to read, of which 72.9% read news articles, 67.1% read their friends’ updates and 20.9% read threads on public accounts.

“In a day and age where the penetration rate of libraries is so low, this kind of reading is supplementing the lack of public libraries to a certain extent,” said Wang Yuguang, professor of the Department of Information Management in Beijing University.

10 million public accounts on WeChat

There are two types of public accounts: subscription accounts and service accounts. WeChat is seen as the first social media platform, which distinguish between this two types, even though overlapping is not uncommon.

It is an increasingly important platform for media outlets to reach out to broader audiences. Therefore numerous Chinese media organizations operate subscription accounts on WeChat, through which they send out daily news bundles to subscribers.

There are claimed to have over 10 million public accounts on Wechat. It is also the primary channel to publish posts.

You read what you friends suggest

WeChat users are both young and social, with 60% of users between the age of 15-29 years old and having an average of 128 friends in the app. According to WeChat’s official data analytics, the category of content their readers read varies based on generation.

Reading habits based on different generations. Source: WeChat Blog

The three types of most widely read articles on WeChat are about love affairs (24o million readers), health (210 million readers) and political news (190 million readers).

There is evidence of selective reading on WeChat, that most of the users (80%) read from friends’ suggestions shared on the platform. This type of selective reading, to read what your friends suggest, could also be witnessed on Facebook.

However, a different pattern of reading on WeChat is that, you can share news articles directly to their friends. It is very convenient. Within all the articles shared on WeChat, 39% of them were shared directly to friends through private messages.

WeChat’s key to success

The difficulty of describing what WeChat also gives a hint on how this social media giant makes to success.

Different social networks have their own ways to gain users. WeChat’s biggest strategy is to provide as many functions as possible on their platform. Then you never have to go to other apps again.

And they actually made it. Apart from making voice and video calling, WeChat also allows users to book taxis, doctors appointments, pay bills, get directions, order food, read articles, etc.

Wanna get more info about WeChat? Here is one episode on “the WeChat lifestyle in data” produced by @We Chat about WeChat

Qing Li is a Chinese journalist currently completing a Master in Media and Politics at the University of Amsterdam. You can find her @qingliqing or Linkedin.