WeChat, the hugely popular Chinese multi-purpose app, is testing a new feature on its official accounts platform that will allow some users to add a paywall, enabling them to monetise their content.

According to South China Morning Post, content creators with verified accounts will be able to charge readers either for selected original content or all posts and it is expected that the cost to readers will range from 1 yuan to 208 yuan (15 cents to US$30).

WeChat will not receive a cut of the revenue generated during the trial period and the paywall feature will be made available for only a limited number of bloggers who have published at least three original pieces of content without violation of community rules for three months.

Accounts run by media organisations, governments and companies will be excluded from the trial, but if successful it is expected that the paywall option will be rolled out to a wider group of users in the future.

Even though WeChat doesn’t plan to take a cut from any payments, it is reported that one of the benefits for the Tencent-owned platform is that the initiative is likely to encourage higher quality online content for its 1.15 billion active users.

“Readers are willing to pay writers they trust for content that has value,” said Zhang Dingding, an independent internet industry commentator and former head of Beijing-based research firm Sootoo Institute. “With the paywall, Tencent is rewarding writers and also encouraging them to continue to create original content.”

And the potential rewards are substantial because, the South China Morning Post reported, an iResearch study has estimated the “paying for knowledge” market will be worth 23.5bn yuan in 2020.

As for how WeChat stands to gain, apart from the potential of hosting higher quality content, the initiative will make it one of only a few online platforms in China to carry paid content.

In addition, WeChat confirmed to Technode that Android users will be able to pay with WeChat Pay, the app’s mobile payment service, for which, of course, there is a processing fee.

Sourced from South China Morning Post, Technode; additional content by WARC staff