How Asahi Shimbun's 12 Mobile Phone News Sites Work

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At Ifra‘s annual Beyond the Printed Word conference this afternoon, Atsushi Sato, deputy manager of the Digital Media Division of The Asahi Shimbun of Japan described how his newspaper operates its sites for mobile phone users.

His newspaper, which has a daily circulation of 12 million copies daily, operates 12 mobile phone information sites and earned $33 million, in a nation in which almost everyone uses a mobile phone. His divisions average annual revenue per users is $53.30, which by comparison puts its mobile on par with the revenues earned by only a few top American newspaper websites. It earns those revenues despite earning a relatively small commission on use of its content by mobile phones. When a mobile phone user accesses the content, she is billed by her phone company, which in turn gives Asahi a ten percent commission. The average amount that Asashi earns per user per service is only $0.07875 per month. Fortunately, his services have lots of users.

Asahi has created and grown its mobile sites by creating a main site, seeing what topics of content are most used on it, and then creating new sites about that content. Among its sites:

  • Asahi-Nikkansports, a joint venture with Nikkansports, provides up to 170 sports articles per day, updating throughout the day.
  • Asahi Lifeline, a site that keeps users informed about natural or man-made disasters.
  • Asahi Mobile Shorts, which provides nine 15-second video clips and 5 still photos daily. Sato said that Asahi had found 15-second to be a good length of time on mobile phones.
  • Nikkan Geino, an entertainment news site, heavy on celebrity and Hollywood news.
  • Asahi Otona no Hondana, a site that offers the contents of ebooks and manga (graphic comics). Sato said this site had grown 386 percent during 2006 and was a major source of revenues.
  • R25 Mobile, which offers a free magazine (no charge to the user’s phone bill).
  • Mixi, a social networking service, which has 10 million users.
  • Mobage, a free game service, which has 7 million users.
  • Kaor-Checki, a site people can user to compare themselves to TV personalities, which has 10 million users.

Sato said his division employs 150 people full-time.

He said it faces threats from Web browsers becoming installed into Japanese mobile phones (which are based on more simpler graphical interfaces); from a saturation of the Japanese mobile market; and from the disinclation of young people (ages 18-30) to pay for online content. Sato said that part of his division’s future strategy will be to concentrate e-books, manga, and also on paid services for older people.

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