Tencent’s all-encompassing app WeChat is testing a paywall function for official accounts which will offer an alternative method to content creators to monetize their offerings, the company announced on Wednesday.
Housing millions of official accounts run by media outlets, influencers, bloggers, and organizations of all sizes, WeChat’s public account ecosystem is one of the most important sources of information for the platform’s 1.15 billion active users. Currently, content creators can drive revenue with ads, or by small rewards from readers.
According to Tencent, account operators will be able to set a full or partial paywall to their original content. Prices that content creators can charge for selected original content start from RMB 1 to RMB 208 (USD 0.15 to USD 30). iOs users will be able to pay through Apple’s in-app purchases, where Apple will take a 30% share from each transaction, while Android users can proceed with WeChat Pay directly. WeChat will not take a cut on the revenues during the trial period, according to the firm.
The first paid WeChat article, priced at RMB 1, went live yesterday, and more than 5,000 users have already paid for it within 24 hours. In the article, the writer shares his insights on how to produce better content.
The function is currently only available for a selected group of content creators, who have been registered on the platform for over three months, and have published at least three original articles during the same period without violating WeChat’s publication rules. Accounts run by media companies, commercial companies, or governmental authorities will be excluded from the trial, according to WeChat.
The firm did not announce when the function will be entirely open for all individual content creators.
The average number of post views on WeChat public accounts has undergone a decline in recent years amid the competition of other content platforms like short-video app Douyin and news aggregator Jinri Toutiao. According to third-party industry data provider Xinbang, the number of average views was 39,000 in 2019, down from 91,000 registered in 2015.
The paywall model could provide an option for content creators to make money and could drive them to produce better quality content, according to an analysis by 36Kr.
On the other hand, some have raised concerns about copyrights, because WeChat hasn’t rolled out any features to disable screen capturing.
“I would consider putting our content on WeChat only if they solve this problem,” Situ Manan, a comics and novel IP (Intellectual Property) management company CEO said to local media TechPlanet.