The hopes for a return on investment aren’t instantly obvious. Digiday says: “Chat apps are a source of ‘dark traffic’: Analytics software can’t detect whether they’re driving much traffic.”
But slowly a few publishers are forging ahead including The Wall Street Journal, which has more than 400,000 followers of its Line account and 300,000 followers on WeChat. It uses these apps as a new alerts service. Users can also send keywords in the chat field such as “tech” and “sport” to get links to news on those topics. The BBC has a Line account with just under 500,000 followers, while The Huffington Post U.K. recently established its own WhatsApp channel.
Speaking to Digiday, Adam Najberg, WSJ’s digital editor for Asia, said, “We’re engaging with people on platforms where they spend a lot of time. We’ve become part of their conversations. It’s not about being a first mover. It’s about being a trusted provider of fair, accurate, timely and interesting news content. We’d ultimately love to have the hundreds of thousands in our new messaging platform audience become loyal subscribers. Talking to and with them on Line and WeChat is a huge first step.”
The opportunity is vast: WhatsApp now has 700 million monthly active users globally; SnapChat usage grew by 55 percent in 2014; and WeChat is now the No. 1 social media platform in China.