Media in Japan

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Media Landscape Overview

Japan has one of the most unique media landscapes in the world where traditional mass media have an enormous effect on public opinion and trends. Unlike media in many other developed countries, traditional media in Japan such as newspapers, magazines, and television are more influential than their online counterparts. Trends are often first solidified in traditional media before spreading to the Internet. In other words, main news stories often appear in print before heading online. This is especially true for B2B news.

Japanese newspapers run the entire spectrum, from general news-oriented papers to special interest newspapers devoted to economics, sports, literature, and trade. Even though the overall circulation of newspapers has decreased by about 6 million over the last 10 years due to the proliferation of smart devices, print is still by far the most influential form of media in Japan and its trustworthiness is often left unquestioned. The five national daily newspapers are the Yomiuri Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, Nikkei, and Sankei Shimbun. Combined, these papers boast a daily circulation of over 45,000,000.
Internet-based media outlets are becoming increasingly popular. 59.1% of Japanese people owned at least one smartphone in 2014, a 14 % increase from the previous year. Younger people tend to use smart devices and PCs more often and follow online media more closely than those older than 30. Yahoo! is the most powerful news aggregator in Japan, and, unlike in many Western countries, its search engine is still widely used on both computers and smartphones.
TV is a very powerful media, particularly for its effect on creating new trends. Nearly 70% of all Japanese trends searched on the Internet originated on TV. Five nationwide broadcasters (four private and one public) account for hundreds of television programs; however, the introduction of satellite broadcasting and cable has led to huge influx of new channels to choose from.

Many younger viewers do not have a traditional TV set in their rooms, but many smart devices give access to traditional TV content. More than 60% of the content aired on TV is viewed by younger generations online. This figure includes sources such as YouTube.

While no single magazine commands the readership numbers of any large newspaper, the pure variety, over 3,300 publications, creates unique value. Magazines are well-segmented, attract extremely loyal readers, and have a strong impact on their reader’s decisions. Magazines, like TV, typically cover more practical information than newspapers and tend to cover subjects more in-depth due to longer publishing cycles.
Social Media is growing, fueled by the ubiquity of mobile and the spread of smartphones. Most Japanese social media users access their accounts from their mobile devices. Japanese in their 20s are the most active.

  • LINE, Japan’s top mobile messenger, is the leading social media platform for all age groups in Japan with over 50 million users and counting. Its services for business are primarily aimed at B2C companies, allowing specialized accounts, messaging, and branded stickers/stamps for use in conversations.
  • Twitter is a highly popular service due to anonymous usernames and the character count limitation providing a huge advantage to Japanese users (Kanji nearly doubles the amount of words that can fit into the character limit). Half of all social network users use Twitter and there are expected to be 26 million users by the end of 2015.
  • Facebook has over 22 million users (as of January 2015) in Japan, overtaking the once leading mixi. It is still growing in popularity and has higher daily use rates than the global average.
  • Instagram is gaining recognition in Japan, particularly in the fields of fashion, design, and food. It is currently trending for teenagers and women in their 20s.
  • LinkedIn has been struggling in Japan and not gained wide usage outside of Japanese employees in Western-based companies. This is primarily because it is currently perceived as a “job site,” which carries an unhealthy connotation in a market where lifetime employee is considered the norm and switching companies is often frowned upon.
  • Curation-based news apps for mobile, such as Smartnews, Gunocy, antenna, and Newspicks, have been rapidly gaining subscribers since 2014. These apps feature articles from their mass media and blog partners, host native ads on their own servers, and distribute content to subscribers based on each user’s unique preferences to spread news and build buzz among audiences of all ages.

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