World Media in 2005: Japan

It is the home of the world's biggest-selling newspaper, but HDTV and 3G phones are staking claim to the future in an ageing nation that is just beginning to recover from a 15-year recession.

Japan's population is set to dwindle. The United Nations estimates it that will drop from its current 127.5 million to 105 million by 2050. Japan's birth rate fell from 3.65 in 1950 to 1.3 in 2004 because Japanese women are increasingly choosing their careers over having children. The trend to remain childless or have just one child is one of many Western trends to sweep Japan, the world's second-largest economy.

Fuelled by rapid growth in the car and electronics industries after the Second World War, Japan built itself into an economic powerhouse. But for the past 15 years, it has been entrenched in a recession from which it is only just starting to recover.

Newspapers have felt the pinch of the downturn. Ad revenues have been declining, although newspapers remain hugely popular with readers. Japan boasts the most widely read newspaper in the world, Yomiuri Shinbun, which has more than 14 million readers every day. Circulations are boosted by afternoon and evening editions and 80 per cent of the population read a newspaper every day.

But Japan's ageing population and enthusiastic adoption of new technology mean that newspapers' position could be under threat. Agencies are waking up to the fact that younger consumers are starting to prefer being targeted through more hi-tec means - via mobile phones with internet access, for instance. These are now as common on the streets of Tokyo as camera-phones are in Europe.

TV remains Japan's preferred medium and the country has been pioneering high-definition TV (HDTV). Although many programmes display Western influences, Japan's TV stations remain largely free of imports. The most popular TV broadcast in 2003 was Sen To Chihiro (Spirited Away), which won an Oscar for best animated film and is the most successful film in Japanese history.

On the agency scene, accountability is key among clients' concerns. The Japanese media market is dominated by key players such as Dentsu, Hakuhodo and Asatsu, all of which offer a traditional full-service approach. These huge agencies have enormous sway when it comes to buying media because they buy in such massive volumes. Yet increasingly, there are calls for a more strategic approach to be applied to media planning and buying, which may prompt significant changes to the way that media schedules are constructed.


USdollars million at current prices. All years based on US$1= yen

115.9 *Estimated

News- Mag-

Total papers azines TV Radio Outdoor Internet

1992 35,509 10,499 3,185 14,255 2,027 5,543 0

1993 33,028 9,564 2,947 13,707 1,823 4,987 0

1994 33,447 9,670 2,996 14,177 1,750 4,854 0

1995 35,145 10,055 3,229 15,141 1,796 4,925 0

1996 37,658 10,678 3,513 16,529 1,881 5,043 14

1997 39,014 10,900 3,791 17,320 1,938 5,013 52

1998 37,480 10,167 3,673 16,825 1,857 4,860 98

1999 36,739 9,950 3,608 16,494 1,762 4,717 208

2000 39,556 10,760 3,769 17,936 1,786 4,796 509

2001 38,897 10,374 3,606 17,839 1,723 4,720 634

2002 36,251 9,236 3,494 16,692 1,585 4,516 729

2003 36,222 9,057 3,481 16,803 1,559 4,302 1,020

2004 38,019 9,215 3,540 17,996 1,560 4,349 1,359

2005* 39,185 9,186 3,530 18,896 1,542 4,366 1,665

2006* 40,277 9,237 3,562 19,652 1,545 4,375 1,906

2007* 41,512 9,432 3,644 20,300 1,538 4,453 2,145


1) Includes production costs

2) Includes classified advertising

3) Includes agency commission at an average 17.5%

4) After discounts



Newspaper: Yomiuri Shinbun (daily, 14,081,000)

Business magazine: Nikkei Business (weekly, 328,000)

Consumer magazine: Kyou No Ryouri - "Food Today" (1,100,000)

Most-watched TV programme (2003): Sen To Chihiro - "Spirited Away"


Best new TV format: Kusama Wa Majo - "Bewitched in Tokyo"


Circulation: Japan Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC)

Readership: NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute and other

private companies

TV viewing: Video Research


Newspapers: Asahi Shinbun

Magazines: Benesse Corporation

Television: NHK (public), NTV, Fuji, TBS


Media topic du jour - Accountability.

Reigning media guru and why - Masayoshi Son, president of Softbank Corp., who's been acquiring various media businesses.

Media mogul to be seen dining with and why - Anyone from one of the large prestigious media groups such as Nikkei, Asahi or Yomiuri. Make sure it's a top Ginza restaurant where a meal for four will cost north of $2,000.

Car to drive - Only a fool would drive around Tokyo's crowded streets when the train system is cheap, efficient and safe.

Top-selling beer brand - Asahi Super Dry.

Phone to carry - Whatever you have, it will be obsolete compared with someone else's in Japan. Maybe it's best to opt for a pager and pretend you like retro style.

Whatever you do, don't say ... "I don't eat fish."