Tencent’s WeChat app has recently introduced a "Listen" feature, signaling the company’s ambitions to extend its audio content platform within China’s super app. While still in the testing phase, the "Listen" feature aims to enhance WeChat’s audio entertainment offerings, encompassing music, podcasts, radio, and audiobooks.
This move could represent WeChat’s most significant feature launch since the introduction of its WeChat Video Channel in early 2020. WeChat seems to aim for a replication of the success it achieved with WeChat Video Channel, a short video feature within the WeChat app.
As of June 2022, WeChat Video Channel boasted 813 million monthly active users, surpassing ByteDance’s Douyin app and several other major video platforms, including Kuaishou. In 2023, WeChat Video Channel witnessed a threefold increase in Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) compared to the previous year.
The online audio platforms in China exhibited steady growth, reaching a market scale of 115.8 billion yuan in 2022, marking a 15.6% year-on-year increase. Audio platforms possess unique strengths in user stickiness and have the potential to build robust online communities, offering additional avenues for earnings, another attraction for WeChat.
Currently, the playlists and artist features in this new feature within WeChat are expansive but still can’t compare to other professional music and audio apps. The music content seems to mainly come from QQ Music, WeChat Radio, and WeChat Video Account Musicians.
With over 100 million users, Tencent Music recorded US$900 million in total revenues and US$173 million in net profit during the third quarter of 2023.
One possible rationale behind this move is WeChat’s ongoing strategy to compete with ByteDance’s Douyin app (TikTok’s Chinese version), which dominates various content forms, including videos and music. Despite some success with WeChat’s Video Channel, the addition of an audio feature could further enhance its growing multimedia content platform.
Launched in 2011, WeChat has faced perceptions of becoming "obsolete" and losing appeal, particularly among younger users. Integrating a "Listen" feature into WeChat could attract a younger audience more inclined to consume audio content in their daily routines. This strategic move might position WeChat to eventually develop an independent and self-sufficient music content ecosystem.