The death of the newspaper? Maybe not in Japan

I don’t read newspapers in Australia very much.  I used to read weekend papers but I don’t make much effort.  The last paper I read with any sort of regularity was the Australian Financial Review weekend edition; more for the David Rowe cartoon than the futures.

However, whenever I’m in Japan I try to read a newspaper everyday.  And it isn’t always easy.  Unless you’re staying in a hotel that delivers one daily you have to visit a (fairly major) railway station kiosk.  A very small number of  convenience stores might carry foreign-language newspapers, but you’d be lucky.  Japanese newspapers are 7 of the top 10 in circulation anywhere in the world.  Here’s a list of the newspapers I read on my last trip to Japan in October 2011:

  1. Mainichi Daily News (Kindle edition, received at 20:00 nightly but the same edition as the next day’s print verison)
  2. The Japan Times (my favourite and the only one not affiliated with a Japanese media organisation)
  3. Asahi Shimbun (and International Herald Tribune)
  4. Wall Street Journal – Japan (delivered to the hotel room by some ghastly mistake)
  5. Financial Times – Japan (where I read about the scandal in Olympus 3 weeks before it appeared in mainstream media)
  6. The Daily Yomiuri

What’s nice is that the English-language newspapers are really quite good.  In the depths of a Japanese Winter I’ve read the cricket scores alongside ice hockey, ski jumping, soccer and surfing news.  The three major dailies have a mixture of national and international news, business, culture and the occasional language lesson and gaijin help-line.

Thirst for news in one’s own language is probably the main reason for reading all of those newspapers.  If I lived there I certainly would read 1 or 2 only and probably stick with the Kindle editions for ease of reading on public transport.

Another reason might be the reasonable price.  Subscriptions are less than ¥3000 per month and an edition is ¥100-120.

And there is something relaxing in a sometimes frenetic city to drink a coffee while reading the paper in a Dotour coffee shop (or Starbucks, if you must).

Despite the ubiquitous Internet phone (since 1999) and lots of digital media, the newspaper in Japan is still very popular.  Whether the newspaper companies are thriving businesses is something I don’t know, but I’ll have a guess.


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