Japan has always been in advance in terms of technological development as far as hardware development is considered. Regarding the content and media, however, the country remains stagnant in comparison to the rest of the developed world. Over the past decade, legacy media, that is, radio, print media, and TV, have shown great uptake rates in contrast to the rest of the world. Nevertheless, certain factors are aligning to influence change in the country's information sources, at the core of which are the Internet and the demographic groups who find it a popular source of information. Thus, there seems to be a shift in generation and distribution of the content because of the increasing usage of smartphones. A declining audience in the legacy media is forcing content generators, advertisers, and media houses to stick to the modern media practices and operations, thereby bringing Japan to the 21st century as far as media trends are concerned.
The legacy media have lost its audiences in most developed countries when mobile computing thrived and a huge percentage of the population in such countries started to consume information and content online. This did not happen in Japan had been left behind for almost 10 years. However, taking into consideration the present time and age, it is obvious that certain traditional media channels are losing popularity in the country as individuals use smartphones for following the content on the Internet. This developed from the necessity rather than a fashion trend as it became expensive for many media houses to continue producing other types of content. The audience has moved online where media houses create the content to remain relevant and meet the needs of the Japanese people.
Background into media consumption in Japan
A Lag in Adaptation of Digital Media
A number of reasons such as privacy issues online, society practices, and advertising industry structures have delayed Japanese move to digital media consumption (Dobashi, 2015). It is a given fact that Japan has been well respected globally for its great advances in technology and for the ways how such developments have positively impacted the world. It almost reached the point of a global technology trendsetter. However, when it comes to digital media consumption, the country appears to slow. Japanese value privacy so much that even social media use only those advantages that allow anonymity (Sugata Research, 2015). For example, Twitter, an American social media company has greatly influenced digital media consumption there. This is because it allows users to sign up for their services using fake names (Sugata Research, 2015).
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A Prevailing New Trend
However, according to the reports and statistics made by different companies like Hakuhodo DY Media Partners Inc., the Japanese people are now in the change of spending less time reading newspapers and watching television than surfing the Internet (Dobashi, 2015). This sudden shift has seemed to happen in a relatively short period of time as compared with other countries across the globe. Hakuhodo's report indicates a sudden leap in the use of mobile technology between 2013 and 2015 while the consumption of newspapers and televisions seems to had been declining steadily within the same time period (The Statistics Portal, 2015).
Factors Fueling the New Trend
The reason for this change could be explained with the improved accessibility to services that can be accessed via the Internet with mobile phones. An adaptation of smartphone technology and almost countrywide access to broadband internet occurred (Sugata Research, 2015). Moreover, an increase in the number of services that offer content on portable devices that could only be previously accessed on TV or newspapers (Dobashi, 2015) For a long time, TV remained the most popular Japanese media space owing to its conservative culture. However, TV position is now being increasingly threatened by digital media and this trend does not seem to slow down in the future. A research by the Open Society Foundation explains this shift in the perspective of the younger generation using digital media platforms for 'social contact' and 'entertainment' rather than a search for knowledge or information (Open Society Foundations, 2012).
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Variations in consumption of digital media
It is worth mentioning that digital media consumption in Japan, as with other parts of the world, varies according to the age group, time of content consumed, and the amount of time spent on these media platforms. Based on a report by NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute, the younger generation proved to be the greatest consumer on the Internet, particularly more than half of surveyed in their twenties preferred the Internet to TV (Dobashi, 2015).
Another report by the Open Society Foundation reveals that 99.1% of Japanese households have access to broadband services while more than 75% of the country's population uses the Internet (Marketing Charts Staff, 2015). This will come as a surprising statistic given because a fair percentage of Japan's society consists of elder people . They also state that political elite takes advantage of the platform letting digital media pass their agenda directly to the public, if compared to the traditional media. However, the traditional media are still regarded as being more reliable (Open Society Foundations, 2012).
Social Media Trends in Japan
While analyzing social media in Japan, it is hard not to mention the score of their platforms that have gained immense popularity in the country over the few years. In Japan, before the emergence of Facebook in around 2011, Mixi was the symbol of the social media arena. Then Facebook suddenly appeared and stole the audience increasing user data by the percentage greater than 200%. After, Twitter appeared which dominated the social media scene and still remains the most preferred social media platform in the country (Singapore Management University).
Global Trends and Effects
The research on global trends made by Zenith Optimedia in 65 countries reveals how media consumption trends had changed in those regions and how different media platforms are likely to change between 2014 and 2017. They predicted that global daily media consumption would rise up 1.4% by 2015 to 492 minutes per day which came as a true reflection of what was in 2015 and a correct forecast of what will happen in 2016 (Open Society Foundations, 2012). Social media have increased internet usage globally, essentially thanks to mobile technology. Analyzing the progress of online media, it is clear that companies, such as Facebook, learnt how to make billions of dollars from advertising on the social network with a huge number of users. The same could be attributed to Twitter where advertising drives growth. Japanese media giants also use these methods to remain on the market and to gain audience.
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Media players in Japan observe how internet consumption is progressively forcing out traditional media. Consequently, the change should have been made long before because of human apathy to legacy media which challenged media houses to have to adapt to changing times (Hutcheon, Austin, & Barnard, 2015).
Another report by Nielsen Global confirms the results shown by Zenith Optimedia which also emphasize Asia Pacific's increased appetite for media, more specifically to digital media. This report reveals how marketers and advertisers now rely on this new trend and even admit that "the highest return on investment (ROI) is achieved via digital marketing channels in Asia Pacific" (Nielsen Global, 2012). The report presents that it many still use television while launching a new product in the region, even though the new and significantly cheaper avenues exist online.
According to the research results, Japan has been rigid in adapting to global media trends for a great number of years. There are different reasons behind it. The research proves a clear deviation from the traditional trend in the media and the reasons for it. It also shows that Japan has started taking advantage of digital media. Perhaps, the legacy media, including TV, will be neglected in the near future while Japanese continue to enjoy digital media content as they anticipate the new possibilities that technology might offer for media consumption.