WeChat embraces new feed algorithm to boost Official Accounts content

The platform is transforming itself while facing the explosive popularity of short-video apps.

Left: Original WeChat Official accounts updates. Right: Current WeChat Official accounts updates.

China’s super-app WeChat is working on a new feature that will allow users to see recommended news and content on the platform Official Accounts service, in a move to boost quality user-generated content.

The new feature will promote unsubscribed official accounts through the users’ news feeds, along with recent articles of these accounts. The algorithm favors content creators who deliver high-quality and original pieces, and matches personalized content according to the user reading habits and its friends’ media consumption practices, 36Kr reported.

WeChat, China’s largest instant messaging and social networking app, allows individuals and businesses to set up official accounts to release news articles, videos, and other content. The function has become a social media marketing channel and one of the primary information sources for Chinese netizens.

The updated function, which is being tested internally since last week, likely aims to boost further growth in the subscribed content service, as new official accounts find it increasingly hard to attract followers and generate page views on the platform.

New entrants have fewer chances when competing with accounts with a larger reader base, even though some of them can produce high-quality content. In addition, according to Chinese media big data provider Newrank, the average page view of articles on WeChat was less than 2,000 times, declining 33% year on year.

WeChat also presumably wants to incentivize its users to find and follow new official accounts, as over 70% of users followed less than 20 official accounts as of February, according to research firm QuestMobile.

The possible shift from “people looking for information” to “information looking for people” strategy is a new thing for WeChat, as the platform has always labeled its method of content distribution as “decentralized”.  The updated algorithm brings resemblances to rivals ByteDance’s way of managing contents for its users.

Tencent-backed WeChat has sensed the threat posed by upstart apps including Bytedance’s video-sharing app Douyin, also known as TikTok overseas, and news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, which uses algorithms to hook users.

It’s uncertain yet when the new function will be deployed officially.