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Wednesday, 18th January 2012
In General Japan News,

Japanese newspaper circulation defies western trends

While the printed newspaper industry across the western world is currently overseeing slowly dwindling circulations, in Japan the demand remains as strong as ever.

New media and technological advances such as smart phones and tablets are forcing the print industry to re-examine its entire business model in countries in the West, but surprisingly for a country as technologically advanced as Japan, this trend is yet to emerge.

Figures from the World Association of Newspapers reported by the AFP reveal that after Iceland, Japan has the second-largest newspaper readership in the world, with a staggering 92 per cent of the population picking up a paid-for daily newspaper.

What's more, the world's three top-selling newspapers are all based in the country, with the Yomiuri circulating a staggering 13.5 million copies every day when the circulation of its morning and evening editions are combined.

As a comparison, in the UK the top-selling daily newspaper, the Sun, has a circulation of around 2.5 million copies per day.

According to Mitsushi Akao, a journalism lecturer at Meiji University in Tokyo, one of the key reasons that Japanese newspapers have bucked the global trend is that their business model is very different.

Speaking to AFP, he said: "The Japanese newspaper industry relies heavily on its solid home-delivery system, which has long covered the entire nation minutely, which is quite different from sales at kiosks in other countries."

"Another factor behind the strength of the industry is their focus on securing people's trust in their newspapers.

"Local newspapers in particular also try to maintain a bond with their communities."

This connection to local newspapers perhaps lies at the heart of the industry's success in Japan, as demonstrated by the key role local papers played during the March 2011 tsunami and earthquake disasters and subsequent blackout.

One local paper, the Ishinomaki Hibi Shimbun, found its printing presses submerged in the floods and with the biggest story in its history in front of it, could not produce a newspaper because electricity supplies were cut off, the news agency reported.

Determined not to let their readership down, the paper's journalists resorted to writing the daily news by hand and delivering it on foot to the local disaster shelters.

Written by Kimberley Homer