[From October Issue 2012]
Mass media began with the invention of the printing press in the middle of the 15th Century. Until recently it had a vital part to play in human history. However, in modern day Japan, a phenomenon is occurring where people are distancing themselves from “mass media” such as TV, newspapers and magazines.
This tendency is stronger in the younger generation, and according to the results of the Japanese Time Use Survey conducted in October 2010 by NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute, the time men and women in their teens to 30s spend viewing TV each day has decreased during the 15 years between 1995 and 2010.
Furthermore, the survey results show that the younger the age group, the fewer the hours they spend watching TV. The average viewing hours calculated according to age group on Sundays, show that the average teen watches around two hours and 37 minutes, whereas the average person in their 70’s watches around five hours and 32 minutes. This means that there is a difference of approximately three viewing hours between the younger and older generations.
The overall national average has been almost the same for 15 years, this is the result of senior citizens spending long periods of time watching TV. Data shows that the younger generation is watching less television, so it can be inferred that the average national viewing hours may eventually take a downturn in the future.
Meanwhile, newspaper circulation in Japan continues to decrease. According to research data from The Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association, from 2000 to 2011 over 5,300,000 fewer copies are being printed daily, a decline of approximately 10%. The magazine industry is in an even tougher spot. According to an independent organization called Japan Audit Bureau of Circulations, in the past five years, it was not unusual for sales of some magazines to sharply drop by more than 20%. Many magazines have gone out of print.
The Internet has drawn many people away from mass media. Towards the end of the 1990s, websites began to pop up and now some wield as much power as existing forms of mass media. According to a White Paper on Information and Communications in Japan by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Internet use by private individuals grew from 9.2% to 78.2% in the period between 1997 and 2010.
Net media took a very important role during the Great East Japan Earthquake, and it accelerated this trend. For 24 hours, a freelance journalist streamed online an unedited version of Tokyo Electric’s press conference regarding the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The net media, which is able to report directly on the spot, was in the spotlight.
Ustream was the video streaming service provider which was used to relay the press conference mentioned previously. Anyone with access to an Internet connection and a video camera can upload and stream videos for free. You don’t even need to have a camera connected up to a computer; videos can be streamed to the world by using iPhone or Android smartphones.
NAKAGAKI Naoyuki, a spokesman for Ustream Asia, says, “Around the time the Great East Japan Earthquake disaster unfolded, special reports and the unedited version of the Tokyo Electric press conference were shown, and this was the trigger for Ustream to reach a wider audience. But we weren’t the ones distributing this as media. All we did was to provide a platform for others to stream their videos.”
“After we established our service in Japan, we continued to improve our service for the Japanese people by cooperating with Twitter, Facebook and mixi. Now we are expanding all over the country with our 30 Ustream Studios; a project that advances our business by providing facilities for users who do not have streaming equipment or suitable premises. We hope there will be further practical applications for official use, such as the transmission of local information or broadcasts from the Diet,” says Nakagaki.
The largest video sharing service provider established in Japan is niconico (previously known as Niko Niko Douga). Users need to sign up in order to view or stream videos, but this website has a unique feature in which comments by viewers appear on the video. Recently, there was a huge buzz about a live broadcast of OZAWA Ichiro (“the People’s Life First Party” leader), answering questions.
SUGIMOTO Seiji, the President of niwango, inc., which operates niconico says, “We tried out various methods for sharing information and impressions. Having comments appear onscreen is the most effective and instinctive way to connect with viewers. I feel our site functions as a way for users to ‘express their thoughts’ without putting up their own content or streaming images.
“niconico itself is not media. Rather it is a place provided exclusively for users to upload, receive and share information with each other. Each user essentially becomes the media themselves because they are a channel through which information flows. All we try to provide to our users is a basic and stress-free service,” says Sugimoto.
The great earthquake caused serious damage. However, it is also a fact that this earthquake has brought about a huge change in the negative perceptions of Internet media. Suitable for accumulation and diffusion of information, the Internet is about to be recognized widely as a new form of media. Each individual is both the distributor and the recipient of this media – in other words, we ourselves are the media.
Text: HATTA Emiko