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Is Amazon.com in market for a major Japanese daily?


Japanese seem to hate the notion of being left out of a group, even a group to which they don't really want to belong.

Yet despite the seemingly far-fetched notion of one of Japan's top vernacular dailies being bought out by a young (49) American upstart like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, a writer for Shukan Post (Aug 30) has milked the brains of some knowledgeable people and provides some useful data about the present and future prospects of the nation's newspapers.

One point he makes is that Amazon.com is loaded. While the Washington Post's price tag of $250 million may sound like a lot of money, it's just a drop in the bucket to Bezos -- about 1% of his company's total worth. With annual revenues equivalent to 5.7 trillion yen, Amazon, with its business model of "taking out the middleman" to deal direct with consumers, no longer feels constrained to limit its acquisitions to U.S. corporations.

The article looks at the operations of several newspapers, including the Asahi and Sankei, and examines their struggles to streamline operations and expand their online businesses. Success has been elusive, to say the least.

The Yomiuri, which has vowed a "fight to the death" to hold the line at 10 million subscribers, has placed its dependence on the print edition, and has consequently fallen even further behind in terms of its Internet operations. It's been said that Yomiuri plans to bolster its business by delivering syndicated news to Japan's regional newspapers, but this is also swimming against the current, since syndication has been losing its presence as the Internet develops further.

But will one of them be open to a buyout proposal by an outsider -- especially a foreign outsider?

"Bezos' restructuring of a newspaper is part of a worldwide phenomenon," says a well known media analyst based in California. "I'm certain that he'll be visiting Japan soon."

For corporations, ownership of a newspaper is a means of demonstrating "trust," and a way of narrowing its distance from the government. In Amazon's case, however, what the company desires most is customer data, and tying up with a regional information network through the acquisition of a newspaper with several million subscribers promises to expand presence on multiple levels. Bezos may also be attracted by the potential for the prestige he'd get from being the only foreigner to achieve such status in Japan.

Shukan Post points out that Japan's newspaper companies owe much of their development to the "Nikkan Shimbun-ho" (law controlling daily newspapers), which was promulgated in 1951 by the allied occupation to prevent communists from infiltrating the newspapers.

"In one sense, the law was not a bad thing, because it protected Japanese journalism," says Yoshiyuki Hashiba, a former Mainichi Shimbun editor who now lectures at Waseda University. "But it's a fact that now the law is impeding the newspaper companies from advancing into a new era."

"Newspaper companies that can't boost their circulation and are also failing to expand their electronic editions are eventually bound to become no more than 'vendors' who just deliver contents that can be sold one at a time via Amazon.com," says an unnamed source within the Asahi Shimbun. "Rather than buy a Japanese company outright, it might be more realistic for Amazon to stick to this."

"Right now," he adds, "the media may be on the verge of an era of change, the likes of which haven't been seen since Gutenberg's invention of movable type."

"Newspapers produced in Japanese are poor in terms of appealing abroad," observes U.S.-based journalist Yuji Kitamaru. "And because they enjoy the protection of the Newspaper Law, they've been slow to react to prevailing currents in the rest of the world. If they believe they can somehow prevail without teaming up with European and North American media, it's entirely possible they'll start to fester from their roots, and the point will arrive when it's too late for them to recover."

© Japan Today

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That would be an odd acquisition, though I notice that paper seems predominant in both the physical medium as well as morning news shows (where they bring out those big boards and peeling paper to discuss the news). I heard from someone that the ability to read Japanese newspapers determines your literacy rate. As for Amazon japan, it absolutely blows away amazon USA, I have ordered things on amazon jp and received it later that evening!

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

As for Amazon japan, it absolutely blows away amazon USA, I have ordered things on amazon jp and received it later that evening!

It depends on exactly what it is that you are ordering. For ME, some of the foods and clothes meds and other products, I tried to order, either, I could NOT get because they said, they cannot send this to or Japan or Japan is not allowed to bring this or that in, or the Japanese Amazon didn't have it in their inventory. So for ME the US has a million more items and I can get ANYTHING, literally.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

More and more Japanese get their news while squinting at the tiny screens of their smart phones. Newspapers have no future, I was mystified when I heard Amazon bought the Washington Post. He'll probably run it into the ground within 3 years.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Is this a story? What is it about? It has no direct info, or even hints, that Bezos is going to buy a j paper. What are they and the writer all talking about, like, fantasies?

Has Bezos/ Amazon made any indications they would buy another paper after the Post? Any indications that it would be abroad? If so, any indications whatsoever that it would be in Japan, and not say, England? Italy? China?

“Right now,” he adds, “the media may be on the verge of an era of change, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Gutenberg’s invention of movable type.”

And this, seemingly the climax of the piece, is something all of us have been aware of for like more than a decade, maybe two.

re tokyoeiyuu and bass4funk's thing

ya, depends what you get. I have accts in both us and jpn, and use both, but US more. I got a kindle on each, also. However, bass, have you noticed that some things they will not ship abroad recently? I recently made an order of a bunch of dvds, and several were not shippable here. Which has never happened w/ any dvd before. I dunno if some coppyright thing, or what.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

To the Shukan Post writer: You're not paying attention. The Washington Post was personally purchased by Jeff Bezos and not by Amazon.com. Also, the $250 million that Bezos paid is 1 percent of Bezos' net worth (roughly $25 billion) and not the net worth of Amazon.com.

This is an error of such colossal magnitude -- it's almost as if the Shukan Post reported that, since the U.S. is a republic, Obama must be the leader of the Republican Party. And yet this simple, easily avoidable error (for starters, you could have tried reading the Washington Post for the correct information) leads you to write copious amounts of speculative drivel.

I particularly love your unnamed source who in one sentence says that Bezos' restructuring is part of a worldwide phenomenon, and then in the next breath says Bezos will be visiting Japan soon. Most times, sources want to remain unnamed because their comments are controversial. Considering how mild these comments are, is it possible you did not name your source because you didn't want your source to correct you by saying, "Hey, the only reason I said Bezos would be visiting Japan soon is because the Shukan Post asked me if Bezos wouldn't mind trying a hot spring in Japan"?

That's just rank speculation, of course -- I haven't done any research to back it up. Thought you'd appreciate it, Shukan Post.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

The Japanese government will not allow a foreign company to control any Japanese newspapers. Japanese newspapers must follow the government line and must not ask provocative questions. Japanese "journalists" must restrict their activities to printing government statements verbatim and not cause any trouble for the governement.

Look what happened to that Japanese bloke (Horie) who tried to buy a radio station. He found himself in jail in a trice. The same fate will befall anyone else who tries to meddle with the established media.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The less Yomiuri advertising we get rammed down our throats each and every day, the happier we'll all be...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Does this author realize or even understand the concept of a corporation being completely separate and distinct from the corporation's owner? Just because Bezos bought a paper does not mean Amazon'com is going to buy one.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The great thing about Amazon in japan is the fact you can return any unwanted or broken product. The Japanese stores don't allowed you to refund anything even if its a un-open product.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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