Chinese spend more than 40 minutes a day reading WeChat

2015-04-21 Editor: Si Huan

Chinese adults read news and threads on smartphone app WeChat for more than 40 minutes a day on average, according to the latest annual survey of China's reading habits released on April 20.

Reading on WeChat was included for the first time in the annual National Reading Survey released by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication. The results show that on average, Chinese adults use WeChat to read twice a day for a total length of more than 40 minutes.

The survey showed that 66.4 percent of adults in China used WeChat to read, of which 72.9 percent read news, 67.1 percent read their friends' updates and 20.9 percent read threads on public accounts.

The 12th annual survey was conducted nationwide, covering a sample size of 49,802 people, which was double the size of the survey last year.

"We found that reading special coverage on hot topics increased significantly on WeChat, and the platform is now offering more systematic, coherent and well-rounded information," said Director of China Academy of Press and Publication Research Institute Xu Shengguo. "Some of the public WeChat accounts are publishing magazine-like analysis reports that are more than tens of thousands of words long," added Xu.

Professor Wang Yuguang of the Department of Information Management in Peking University said the dream of having libraries all over the world is still not realized, and the presence of WeChat is filling this void to some extent.

"In a day and age where the penetration rate of libraries is so low, this kind of reading is supplementing the lack of public libraries to a certain extent," said Wang. "But personally, I think WeChat is taking too much of our time. Students are too reliant on WeChat."

"Reading on WeChat is fragmented and salutatory, not to mention the inaccuracy of some of the information," said Dean of Chinese Academy of Press and Publication Wei Yushan.

Experts believe that children's stories, academic reports and classic literature should still be read on paper.

"The main purpose of WeChat is entertainment and web browsing. I don't recommend children to start their reading on WeChat as its tendency to disperse children's attention is not beneficial in shaping good reading habits for them. Reading on paper lets you read without disruptions. You can read and think at the same time," said Wang.

Nevertheless, Wang is not denying the benefits of WeChat. "We should research more into the beneficial effects of reading on the WeChat platform."

China is reading more

According to the report, the average reading rate in China is on the rise, in both print and digital media.

The report shows that the rate of reading printed books was 58.0 percent in 2014, which is up 0.2 percentage points compared with the figure in 2013. Reading rates for digital publications is 58.1 percent (up 8 percentage points), and comprehensive reading rate of all media is 78.6 percent (up 1.9 percentage points).

On average, in 2014, Chinese people read 4.56 books, 65.03 newspapers, 6.07 magazines and 3.22 digital publications. The figure is higher for younger respondents, as those in the 0 to 17 age group read 8.45 books annually (a rise of 1.48 books).

For families with children less than 8 years of age, 88.8 percent of parents had the habit of reading with children and on average spent 23.64 minutes a day reading with their kids.

The durations Chinese adults spend on reading traditional and new media both increased.

On average, Chinese adults read newspapers for 18.8 minutes a day, an increase of 3.3 minutes from last year. Time spent reading books was 18.76 minutes (up by 5.33 minutes) and that for magazines 13.42 minutes (up 3.37 minutes).

For new media, Chinese nationals spent 54.87 minutes on the Internet, an increase of 4.09 minutes compared to figures in 2013. The average daily duration spent reading on mobile phones was 33.82 minutes, a drastic hike by 12.12 minutes compared with 2013.

Nearly 90 percent of adults who read through digital media portals were under the age of 49, and traditional paper print was still the most preferred media for reading (chosen by nearly 60 percent of respondents).

Nearly 40 percent of respondents said they read less than they would like to and approximately 70 percent of them wanted local governments to organize regular reading activities.

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