JIN-160 -- Asia-centric English Media Feel Corporate Squeeze

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J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the week's business and technology news
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Issue No. 160
Wednesday, December 5, 2001
Tokyo

CONTENTS

++ Viewpoint: Asia-centric English Media Feel Corporate Squeeze
++ Noteworthy news
- Moody's Downgrades Japan's Credit Rating
- UBS Warburg Makes Expensive Gaffe on Dentsu IPO
- TV Ratings: Princess Loses Out to Food Show
++ Events

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++ VIEWPOINT: Asia-centric English Media Feel Corporate Squeeze

The October 2000 issue of Red Herring on my desk serves as a
reminder of a bygone era. It is 461 pages thick and feels
like a phone book. Last year was a heady time for journalists as
online publications sprouted up in Asia and stock option
deals lured experienced people into dot.com newsrooms. But it feels
like decades ago now.

Last year at about the time that Red Herring published its mammoth
October issue, I was starting to string for Asiaweek. Last week,
AOL Time Warner pulled the plug on the newsweekly, putting
80 people out of work and stifling one of the more interesting
English voices in Asia. Asiaweek, which had a circulation of 120,000,
had been around for 26 years. Dan Logan, the chief executive officer
of Time, explained the decision to shut the weekly down: "As a normal
part of the process, we periodically review every magazine's
performance and its long-term business prospects. Having recently
completed this critique, we've decided to stop publishing Asiaweek."

In Japan, homegrown English media are facing hard times as well. The
Mainichi Daily News stopped its print edition earlier this year, and
the Asahi Shimbun scored what is turning out to be a Pyrrhic victory
by joining forces with the International Herald Tribune. Having IHT
news at a reasonable price (120 yen) is nice for foreigners in Japan,
but the Asahi, which used to have a pretty good English evening
newspaper, pales in comparison with its international partner. Most
people I've talked to admit to just skimming the Asahi pages or
avoiding them altogether. And of course, there's the Daily Yomiuri,
which seems to throw in any kind of international news it can get its
hands on -- Sports Illustrated, the Economist, Time, Barrons -- you
name it. The Yomiuri even has a page in its weekly Washington Post
supplement about news from the district's suburbs. I used to live in
Arlington, Virginia, but I don't care to read about its traffic
problems in the Yomiuri.

Journalists know now -- just a year after large salaries were being
dangled in front of them -- that if they don't have a piece of the
Afghanistan War, they're likely to face dwindling budgets and
resources. And if they are owned by a large corporate parent, they
can expect to be squeezed like a grapefruit. Without a war to cover,
journalists can argue all they want about how they need resources,
how good journalism and profits don't necessarily mix, how they
need independence and publishers need long-term vision, but the
boardrooms aren't going to listen. For AOL Time Warner, Asiaweek was
just an irritating blip on its radar screen. For 120,000 readers,
Asiaweek was one of the few Asia-centric publications they could
turn to.

While Time and other media giants preside over the McDonaldization
of journalism, readers suffer. Everything starts to sound the same.
The Far East Economic Review, another interesting regional voice,
merged its newsroom with the Asian Wall Street Journal in late
November at the behest of parent Dow Jones & Co. One quarter of the
staff was let go in the name of reduced costs and improved efficiency.
But of course, we know what that means: Same amount of work, fewer
people. Good journalism is wasteful, not efficient. If you give a
journalist an expense account, expect it to be used...completely.
Of course there needs to be tension between a publisher's desire to
run a tight ship and a journalist's desire to get the story, but
right now, the publishers have way too much sway. What's so bad with
an interesting read that breaks even, anyway?

-- Bruce Rutledge

From Asiaweek:
http://www.asiaweek.com/asiaweek/magazine/
dateline/0,8782,186407,00.html

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++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS
(Long URLs may break across two lines.)

** Moody's Downgrades Japan's Credit Rating

Extract: On Tuesday, Moody's Investors Service cut its rating on
Japan's yen-denominated debt to Aa3, a drop of one rank, according to
Reuters. It was the third time in two weeks that a rating service cut
Japan's credit rating. Moody's kept its outlook for the rating
"negative."

The drop put Japan's credit rating at the same level as Italy and
Slovenia. Japan and Italy have the lowest ratings of the Group of
Seven major industrialized nations.

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** UBS Warburg Makes Expensive Gaffe on Dentsu IPO

Extract: UBS Warburg may lose millions of dollars because of a typing
error during the November 30 IPO of Japanese advertising giant Dentsu.
At the start of the trade day, the brokerage entered a sell order for
610,000 shares of Dentsu at 16 yen each; the proper order would have
been 16 shares for 610,000 yen each. The order was placed even though
the operator had to click a "confirm" button before placing the order,
according to the Mainichi Shimbun, a leading Japanese daily.

UBS Warburg shared lead management responsibilities for the Dentsu
IPO with Merrill Lynch and Nomura Securities, which were planning to
lend shares to UBS Warburg so that it could fix its mistake by today.

The Financial Times reported that UBS Warburg said the mistake would
not have a "significant effect" on its operations in Japan, but
rivals said the loss could run into tens of millions of dollars.

The damage suffered by UBS Warburg is not limited to a financial loss.
The Dentsu IPO was perhaps the biggest in Japan and was supposed to
be a high-profile deal for the brokerage.

From the Financial Times:
http://globalarchive.ft.com/globalarchive/articles.html?
print=true&id=011203000791

** TV Ratings: Princess Loses Out to Food Show

Extract: On December 1, the whole nation was glued to the tube
gleaning information about the newly born princess, right? Wrong. In
the Kanto area, which includes Tokyo, the highest rated TV program
during the so-called "golden time" of 7-9 pm was TV Tokyo's "Saturday
Special" featuring a report on Japanese *nabe* or stews. Kyodo
reports that the program got a 17.5 percent share of the audience,
compared with just a 10 percent share for NHK's coverage of the new
princess. The other four main channels drew shares of between 4 and 9
percent, weaker than normal.

Even in the Kansai region, which includes Osaka and Kyoto, TV Tokyo
drew an 11.1 percent share of the audience. "We heard the other
channels would be doing specials, so we decided to define ourselves
by airing our regular programs," a TV Tokyo executive said. "We
weren't really trying to draw a big audience."

Commentary: The Japanese love food. They love eating it, talking
about it, and -- as anyone who has watched Japanese TV knows --
making TV shows about it. Now we have proof that they even like
watching those shows about food.

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EVENTS (Advertisement)

** IMN's Inaugural Summit on Japanese Corporate Restructuring &
Recovery (December 11-12, Tokyo) will bring together Japanese
corporations from diverse sectors, leading institutional investors,
investment bankers and consultants and lawyers, from Japan and abroad.
The Summit will focus on restructuring, M&A, alternative financing,
and corporate rehabilitation strategies. Over 250 attendees expected.
Keynote Speakers: Hidehiko Nishiyama, Director, Americas Division,
METI and Wilbur Ross, Chairman & CEO, W.L. Ross & Co.

** Fiberoptics Forum in Tokyo, December 13-14, 2001

Nikkei Electronics and U.S.-based PennWell are to co-host
"Fiberoptics Forum 2001 in Tokyo" that focuses on technological and
market trends related to opto-electronics. As we hail the broadband
era, optical communication technology has increased its significance.

High-speed board design utilizing the application of optical switches
will become more common within the next few years. Under such
circumstances, the forum will invite prominent engineers from the U.S.
to give analysis on such hot themes as "Optical Communication
Components/LSIs Exceeding 40 G bits/sec" and "Chip Industry Enters
Contest to Develop Optical Switches." In addition, analysts from the
U.S. will forecast the future market trends from the perspective of
the so-called "optical food chain" -- optical components, optical
devices and optical networking services.

Simultaneous translation (Japanese <--> English) will be provided.

For further information please visit:
http://dk.nikkeibp.co.jp/dk/seminar/011213e.html

** 3G Mobile World Summit / 15th-18th January 2002 / Makuhari Messe

Marcus Evans, the world's leading provider of business events,
is proud to present Japan's largest 3G Mobile Summit to be held in
Makuhari Messe in January 2002. Join us at the summit and benefit
directly from the "real" experiences of our world-leading visionaries
as they deploy commercial 3G networks, enable the mobile internet and
deliver high-value broadband multimedia services.

For further details, please visit:

Or contact directly: Kyomi Azuma - Marketing Manager - at:
kyomia@marcusevansjp.com kyomia@marcusevansjp.com> /
TEL: 03-5790-6480

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STAFF
Written by Bruce Rutledge (bruce@japaninc.com) and Sumie Kawakami
(sumie@japaninc.com)

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