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There’s been much talk recently about newspaper websites setting up paywalls: both the New York Times and the Times (of London) will soon follow in the footsteps of the Wall Street Journal by charging users for access to most of their articles. Here in Japan, meanwhile, the Nikkei has gone one better (or should I say worse?): linking to any of its articles – and even its home page – now requires a written application.
The newspaper, with an estimated daily circulation of 3.1 million, is fiercely protective of its intellectual property. Subscribers currently pay a monthly fee of JPY4,000 (approx. £28) for online access, which is a mere JPY383 cheaper than a subscription to the print edition.
The Nikkei said that it implemented the new policy to prevent links coming from “inappropriate” sites, and to stop non-subscribers from viewing articles.
Have you ever heard of a website requiring a written application for linking to its home page? No, I didn’t think so, and for good reason: it’s a completely mental idea. I, for one, am intrigued to know what they mean by inappropriate sites. Perhaps someone at JapaneseMILFs.com has been trying to attract a more up-market audience by adding a bit of business news to its front page (probably titled “Stocks and C…”).
As for the non-subscribers viewing articles issue, well, I’ve never heard of such a problem before. If a non-subscriber clicks on a link to an article behind a paywall, then surely he/she simply gets directed to an “access denied” page?
In all honesty, though, this kind of backward-looking approach to putting content online isn’t surprising. The Japanese newspaper industry doesn’t really know what to do about the internet. There is a tendency to emphasise the negatives of going online (the loss of traditional print subscriptions and advertising revenue) over the positives (capturing a moneyed youth audience that gets most of its news from mobile phones and TV). This in turn influences how much money newspapers allocate to their online divisions. Some Japanese newspaper websites, for example, are appallingly designed; in fact they often look like they were last spruced-up in the late 1990s.
Until Japanese newspapers start to see serious drops in their (currently massive) circulation figures and profit margins, they will want to stay within the warm, womb-like confines of traditional paper-and-presses for as long as humanly possible.
Want to see what’s going on in Tokyo right this very minute? Here’s a selection of some of the best live webcams. All of the cameras are running in real time (none of that “updates every ten seconds” nonsense), and you can control them yourself. Just click on the images below and away you go.
Daito Manabe knows what the people want: facial electrocution set to music!
While car companies are currently in a terrible financial situation, with sales having slumped in developed countries, most do see light at the end of the tunnel and anticipate a recovery. In Japan, however, the decline may be much harder to reverse.
In 2009 it is predicted that 4.86 million new cars will be sold in Japan, which would be the first time in 30 years that sales have fallen below five million. What is even more worrying for Japanese car makers is that young people – men especially – are far less interested in cars than they used to be.
While owning a car used to be a status symbol, Japanese youngsters these days are more likely to be spending their money on the latest mobile phones, MP3 players and other electronic gadgetry than on their first car. The convenience of public transport in urban areas also leaves childless 20- and 30-somethings with little reason to buy one.
So how can car manufacturers make their products more appealing to young Japanese? Perhaps one way forward is for companies to generate more revenue from car-related services than from car sales. A car-sharing scheme could prove popular, especially when coupled with an online “car booking” service that can be accessed from mobile phones. All for a monthly fee, of course.
What do you think will happen to the Japanese car industry?
Related: “Japan auto sales plunge as young lose interest” – The Detroit News