Mir­a­cle ofWeChat takes hold of tech-savvy news gath­er­ers

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS - By LIU WEIFENG

Ev­ery morn­ingMon­day through Fri­day, at our very first ed­i­to­rial meet­ing at 8 o’clock, all the edi­tors from dif­fer­ent news sec­tions take out their cell phones, in­stead of note­books, to at­tend the day’s early brief­ing for China Daily’s print-dig­i­tal news con­ver­gence.

We share and dis­cuss news top­ics and send out news up­dates to a panel set up vi­aWeChat, the in­stant mes­sag­ing ap­pli­ca­tion by Ten­cent Hold­ings Ltd. Youmay ar­gue it’s be­come the typ­i­cal way of meet­ing for dis­cussing and pitch­ing news for dig­i­tal plat­forms. But the truth is we have a much wider and deeper ob­ses­sion aboutWeChat, both for work pur­poses and per­sonal mat­ters.

At rough count, the num­ber of group pan­els I am­in­volved with on WeChat is at least 20 of the most ac­tive groups I need to check out fre­quently through­out the day, in­clud­ing 10 for busi­ness, five for fam­ily and five for friends and class­mates.

Social media al­low you to work away from the of­fice, no mat­ter where you are; it also keeps the work­ing clock tick­ing on a rolling 24-7 ba­sis, whether dur­ing of­fice hours or not.

Be­sides those groups, our tech­savvy gen­er­a­tion also cre­ates nu­mer­ous news groups at any time, when­ever new story top­ics and plans pop out. For ex­am­ple, when we planned an in-depth re­port on the value-added tax re­form be­fore its in­tro­duc­tion onMay 1, a spe­cial VAT re­port­ing group was formed im­me­di­ately con­sist­ing of re­porters from the macroe­co­nomic re­port­ing team, re­tail­ing sec­tor and fi­nance beat.

Ac­tu­ally, al­most all the re­port­ing tasks are as­signed vi­aWeChat and a ma­jor­ity of work­ing group dis­cus­sions, daily news bud­get post­ings and of­fice no­tice re­leases are re­al­ized onWeChat. I can’t help won­der­ing what an amaz­ing in­ven­tion it is, and how greatly com­mu­ni­ca­tion ef­fi­ciency has im­proved with it.

Ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg, WeChat had 762.4 mil­lion monthly ac­tive users at the end of the first quar­ter of 2016. The num­ber was 697 mil­lion at the end of 2015, up 39 per­cent year-on-year.

One in four users check­WeChat at least 30 times per day, while more than half check it out over 10 times a day, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by Ten­cent.

The more ac­tive users, the eas­ier it is for the social media to charge bet­ter rates from its ad­ver­tis­ers and ex­pand its chan­nels to be prof­itable. For ex­am­ple, WeChat’s pay­ment service wit­nessed a huge cap­i­tal flow of 32 bil­lion yuan ($4.9 bil­lion) in six days in Fe­bru­ary dur­ing the Chi­nese Lu­nar NewYear, amid peo­ple’s fever­ish in­volve­ment in send­ing and re­ceiv­ing red-pocket money.

Some­times I think: are peo­ple re­ally bet­ter-off and hap­pier with the ever deeper and wider pen­e­tra­tion of social media likeWeChat? To be honest, I find it harder to keep con­cen­trat­ing onmy job while I amjump­ing from one group to an­other, switch­ing topic from this to that, in lim­ited space and time. It’s a bit like a cir­cus clown jug­gling — toss­ing balls up into the air, try­ing to keep three of them mov­ing about with­out drop­ping them, with only two bare hands.

Re­search by er­i­cad­hawan.com said it takes a typ­i­cal user 23 min­utes to get back on track af­ter a social media in­ter­rup­tion, which oc­curs ev­ery 10.5 min­utes on av­er­age.

Even con­tact withmy fam­ily has been mi­grat­ing on­line, mak­ing it eas­ier and sim­pler. I used to phone my par­ents who live inmy hometown of Zhengzhou, He­nan prov­ince, at least once a week, talk­ing aboutmy work andmy life in gen­eral and ask­ing about their health.

But four years agomy par­ents started us­ing iPhones and opened WeChat ac­counts, and now we rarely call each other. We just send text or voice mes­sages, or some­times I make group video-calls withmy par­ents andmy sis­ter.

We do con­tact each other much more fre­quently, but the ex­changes have be­come more su­per­fi­cial.

I have to ad­mit we have be­come more or less addicted to social media. A re­port by the Univer­sity of Mary­land said that 18 per­cent of social media users in the United States can’t go beyond “a few hours” with­out check­ing Face­book. It’s es­ti­mated that US of­fice work­ers spend about one quar­ter of their work­ing hours brows­ing social media for non-work re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties.

Frankly, I need to think twice about whether social media have be­come a pro­duc­tiv­ity booster or a pro­duc­tiv­ity killer? Be­fore I work out the an­swer to that one, I’d bet­ter pick upmy phone and callmy dear old folks, 800 kilo­me­ters away.

Con­tact the writer at li­uweifeng@chi­nadaily.com.cn

WEN YIN / FOR CHINA DAILY

A pas­sen­ger ac­cess­esWeChat with freeWi-Fi on flight MU 5101. China Eastern Air­lines and China Tele­com have in­tro­duced the na­tion's first com­mer­cialWi-Fi use in air from Shang­hai to Bei­jing.

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