TT-617 -- Content Publishers Need a Software Alliance, e-biz news from Japan

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
(http://www.terrie.com)

General Edition Sunday, June 12, 2011, Issue No. 617

+++ INDEX

- What's New -- Content Publishers Need a Software Alliance
- Metropolis Members Club winners
- News -- Bankruptcies of SMEs rises
- Candidate Roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming Events -- Next Entrepreneur Seminar set
- Corrections/Feedback
- News Credits

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+++ WHAT'S NEW

When our sister company Japan Inc. Holdings first bought
out the Metropolis magazine in late 2007, one of the top
items on the agenda was to create a better web presence for
the magazine, that would allow it to fight back against
web-only companies who were staking out ground
traditionally claimed by Metropolis. Unfortunately, due
mainly to lack of experience and by using low-cost
off-shore resources, several attempts at producing online
applications were notable failures. In fact the only real
success Metropolis had was the simple reproduction of
content on a Wordpress Content Management System
(CMS).

Wordpress, by-the-way, is great. It is very stable, easy
to learn and has great functionality. Drupal, Joomla, and
other CMS's are also good, but it's Wordpress that has
market mass and developer momentum behind it.

Those rather costly failures helped us learn, as have many
other publishers and ordinary companies who publish content
regularly, that to compete properly with the web-only
firms, you have to be a software company or have a friendly
one very close at hand. Using outside resources makes you
totally reliant on them, and we found that critical points of
failure are the partner's availability, their ability to
communicate, continuity of engineering resources, and a
proper understanding of your business field.

Thus, early last year, after the second outsourced effort,
we decided to set up a separate software company, called
MetroWorks. Some of you may recall seeing ads in Terrie's
Take soliciting potential investors. In case you were
wondering about the effectiveness of this type of approach
to getting funding, out of 45 inquiries arising from the
Terrie's Take ads, 12 people invested.

[Continued below...]

-------- Remaining Partners for Tourist Web Project -------

Our many thanks to the 30+ partner candidates who have
contacted us so far. The project is moving forward with
great momentum and full project details are available for
interested parties.

We still have openings for partners in the following
prefectures:

Aomori, Iwate, Akita, Yamagata, Fukushima, Niigata, Toyama,
Fukui, Yamanashi, Gifu, Shizuoka, Aichi, Mie, Kyoto, Hyogo,
Yamaguchi, Tokushima, Kagawa, Kochi, Saga, Nagasaki, Oita,
Miyazaki, and Kagoshima

If you can write and market tourism for your prefecture, as
part of a nationwide English-language tourism push under
the Metropolis banner, then please email us today for our
Powerpoint presentation.

Initial project manager: terrie@metropolis.co.jp
------------------------------------------------------------

[...Article continues]

The MetroWorks team has been hard at work ever since and
has created a range of primarily PHP-based applications
that allow non-software companies to interact with and
monetize their audiences and yet don't require those
publishers to cannibalize their offline (paper) content.
For Metropolis magazine, the first application to be
implemented was a new, much faster version of the
Classifieds, which MetroWorks delivered in November 2010.

While the previous online Classifieds software was slow and
unreliable, the new application has been running strongly
and the growth of new business was immediately obvious. Now
the online Classifieds account for a significant part of
Metropolis' total online revenue. "Women seeking men" and
vice versa have never been happier...! :-)

As a side note, it's a strange thing that Classified ads
have never really caught on in Japan. We're not sure why --
perhaps text-only ads seem too simple? Anyway, there is
no real equivalent to Craig's List here. This of course
provides an excellent market for MetroWorks, which
is now speaking to a number of Japanese publishers about
getting their users on to self-service, online, mini ads.

Following on from the Classifieds has been a new
application, internally called the RBR Engine, which is a
ranking/reviewing engine modeled on several famous
restaurant/dining sites on the web. In its current
incarnation, the RBR engine is on the Metropolis website as
MetroDining.jp. If you haven't tried out MetroDining yet
(URL: www.metrodining.jp), you should. The database is
currently being populated with the 2,000 or so food
articles that Metropolis has published in recent years, and
Metropolis editors tell us that currently about 900
restaurants are up and running. They are aiming for about
another 50-100 restaurants a month, as well as dozens of
reader reviews, and by the end of this year will have the
largest online database in English of places to eat out in
Tokyo. Other cities are not far behind.

There are other restaurant evaluation sites in English out
there, and several are very good, so what makes
MetroDining so different? Answer: the availability of a
friendly, local, software company.

By this we mean that MetroWorks was able to go through some
of the best of breed ranking/reviewer engines out there,
such as yelp.com, tabelog.com, and gurunavi.com, and pick
up advanced features not available on competitor sites. As
a result, today Metrodining.jp has user/reviewer input
tools, likes/dislikes to weight reviews so as to improve
review quality, and shortly, loyalty points. In addition
the site includes merchant input tools, so that restaurant
and bar owners can put up offers and general information in
a self service context.

The advantage of a close software company has become clear
in recent weeks as the Metrodining.jp site has been
launched and fine-tuned. For example, it was designed to
run on a browser on mobile devices, but Metropolis quickly
found that iPhone browsing using Softbank as the carrier
(eMobile connections are much faster) is very slow. So slow
in fact, that it makes the application look like it is at
fault. It didn't take long to realize that this is why so
many media companies have released iPhone applications,
because an "in-device" front-end can mask to a certain
extent the bandwidth availability issues and make for a
better user experience. Thus, MetroWorks will be turning
out an iPhone application for Metrodining.jp in the next
few weeks.

Another application that has just been released by
MetroWorks is a Social Network System (SNS) engine,
similar to what you might find on Facebook.

http://metropolis.co.jp/community/

Why, you might wonder, would MetroWorks try to recreate a
web service that already has 500m members? The reason is
quite simple: people may go to Facebook to meet existing
friends, but they don't as easily find new friends there.
Yes, there are groups, but these tend to be made up of a
very diverse membership and are often difficult to feel
comfortable participating in. For this reason, web users
will still look at brands that represent a particular value or
brand, and if SNS functionality is available, then they will
use that brand to complement their existing activity on
Facebook.

So it has been that Metropolis launched its first version
SNS in November 2009, and quickly gathered about 12,500
members. As mentioned, all of those users could easily
just stay on Facebook, but in addition they are using the
Metropolis as well. Metropolis represents a connection
between Japanese and non-Japanese, and access to
foreign lifestyles in Japan. As a brand, it's very focused,
and users know and like this.

Unfortunately Metropolis' SNS growth started to slow and
so about two weeks ago, MetroWorks upgraded the SNS
to a version which is much more secure and has some
rather cool new functions within its Facebook-like
presentation -- like Twitter-style follower features. The
new functionality has kicked the SNS back into life and
there are now 14,400 members, boosted by new
sign-ups every day.

So what have we learned about running a relationship
between a content-producing business and a software
development partner?
* The software partner needs to have interests closely
aligned to those of the content company, so as to ensure
efficient and effective use of resources. Some form of
profit-sharing is a great way to achieve this.
* The software partner needs to allocate engineers to
projects on the basis that those engineers will continue to
be available in the future. Even with the best code
notation practices, you can't beat having the original
engineer being available to tell another how an application
is built and works.
* There needs to be a senior manager in the content company
who is highly motivated to understanding the software
development process and who will take ownership of setting
milestones, pushing projects along, and getting in at the
front end of a project to review designs and features. This
is not easy to do, because it requires strong
conceptualization and communication skills, AND, can be
really boring! Clearly someone with a marketing background
and yet lots of patience is the best candidate for this.
* There needs to be an understanding that no specification
is ever 100% appropriate to users on the Web, and it is not
until an application is up and running that you find out
how people will react to it. Yes, you can run focus groups
and make sure that testing and debugging follow best
practices, but sometimes you just can't tell if a given
business model will work until you try it.
* Therefore, there needs to be a high level of flexibility
on what the application will finally look like, so that as
preliminary user reactions come in, the content company's
senior manager AND his/her counterpart in the software
partner are prepared to rip apart the interface or the
functionality in order to give users something they
actually want.

Lastly, one more really great thing we have learned is that
there are so many gaps and opportunities in the market for
web-based software applications. As we found with the
Classifieds for Metropolis magazine, there are many barely
touched application areas that are proven and crowded
abroad and yet are virgin territory here. The current
economy may be in a state of disarray, but it's an exciting
time to be developing new web sites and online social
functionality.

...The information janitors/

***------------------------****-------------------------***

Metropolis Members Club Winners

The week before last, Robert Hoey who won one night's
accommodation for two at The Westin Tokyo courtesy of The
Westin Tokyo. In the next two weeks we have another GRAND
PRIZE, which is a pair of air tickets to any United direct
destination in the USA or Asia courtesy of United Airlines.
This is the big one...!

Our Metropolis Members Club is growing by leaps and bounds
-- join now. No obligations, simply receive our weekly
email magazine and enjoy the Metropolis stories, discounts,
and prizes.

http://metropolis.co.jp/club/

***------------------------****-------------------------***

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an office in Japan. We take care of all aspects of the
employment, contracting, and dispatch -- including
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Also, if you're thinking of Cloud office solutions, take a
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For more information on this and other SI and IT services,
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Web: www.biosjp.com
-----------------------------------------------------------

+++ NEWS

- Mizuho debacle precipitates FSA probe
- Japanese prefectures being trademarked in China
- Bankruptcies on the rise
- Survey says 28.5% of companies planning HR outside Tokyo
- Ascendant Business Solutions KK sold

-> Mizuho debacle precipitates FSA probe

The Financial Services Agency (FSA) is apparently looking
at conducting a probe into major banks IT operations and
their ability to respond to outages and emergencies such as
the one that Mizuho went through after the March 11
earthquake, when its ATM network crashed for several weeks.
***Ed: Mizuho has always said publicly that the ATM crash
was caused by a surge of donations for Tohoku/Sendai
earthquake victims, but it's interesting to see that the
FSA is probing, amongst other things, how each bank's IT
systems are managed and how that management is delegated.
We can't help wondering if Mizuho had outsourced some of
its ATM work to another company and for this reason was
unable to maintain services themselves after the quake.**
(Source: TT commentary from e.nikkei.com, Jun 09, 2011)

http://e.nikkei.com/e/fr/tnks/Nni20110609D09JFN02.htm

-> Japanese prefectures being trademarked in China

Although globally it is accepted practice that you can't
trademark place names, it seems that within China trademark
registrations of place names is quite rampant. The Japan
Patent Office has reported that at least Fukui, Aichi,
Kagawa, and 23 other locations in Japan were registered in
China in the last 12 months. Apparently Hokkaido, Aomori,
Nagasaki and 6 other prefectures have made applications in
China themselves to try to protect themselves from such
patent squatting. ***Ed: Our company tried once to register
the name JapanInc.com, and was told that as a place name it
would be disallowed. We finally got approval by changing
the "a" in "Japan" to an "@", which is why Japan Inc.
magazine is spelled J@pan Inc.** (Source: TT commentary
from nikkei.com, Jun 11, 2011)

http://e.nikkei.com/e/ac/tnks/Nni20110611D10JFA01.htm

-> Bankruptcies on the rise

Japan has successfully kept bankruptcies low over the last
couple of years (since the Lehman Shock) by providing bank
loan repayment forgiveness for many small and medium-sized
companies. While this has served to keep tens of thousands
of firms in business, the additional stress of the
post-earthquake economy has proven too heavy for many and
according to Tokyo Shoko Research, bankruptcies of firms
with debts of JPY10MM or more jumped to 1,071 in May, up
4.9% from the same period last year. ***Ed: Our bet is that
the volume of smaller and medium-sized companies will start
to surge over the coming months, especially those in the
hospitality and entertainment sectors.** (Source: TT
commentary from e.nikkei.com, Jun 08, 2011)

http://e.nikkei.com/e/ac/tnks/Nni20110608D08SS205.htm

-> Survey says 28.5% of companies planning HR outside Tokyo

A recent survey by recruiter Hays Japan has found that of
just over 200 Japanese and International companies polled,
about 28.5% plan to build HR resources outside of Tokyo, so
as to diversify risk. The companies appear to favor the
Kansai, Kyushu, and Hokkaido mostly, with many of these
simply continuing to stay on after temporary relocations
originally implimented after the March 11 earthquake. ***Ed:
The same survey found that 51% of companies identified IT
as their most important job function, followed by 34.5%
naming HR.** (Source: TT commentary from wsj.com, Jun 09,
2011)

http://on.wsj.com/mHLTei

-> Ascendant Business Solutions KK sold

While it may be a tough market for foreign firms in Japan
right now, some M&A deals are still getting done. The
Ascendant Business Solutions KK company was sold on May
20th to a Hong Kong conglomerate called Tricor for an
undisclosed sum. Our congratulations go to founder Mark
Ferris and his management team for their success, and we
understand that the team will stay with the company for a
while. Tricor is a major corporate services firm, with over
1,500 employees in 14 countries, mostly in Asia. (Source:
TT commentary from ascendant website, May 24, 2011)

http://www.ascendantbusiness.co.jp/en/

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.

***------------------------****-------------------------***

+++ CANDIDATE ROUND UP/VACANCIES

=> BiOS, a Division of the LINC Media group, is actively
marketing the following positions for customers setting up
or expanding in Japan, as well as other employers of
bilinguals.

** HIGHLIGHTED POSITION

BiOS is urgently looking for a software developer with
experience developing iPhone applications at our partner
company’s office in the Minato-ku area. The candidate will
be responsible for creating/updating/modifying existing
iOS applications, as well as creating/managing server-side
resources such as; data, files, data interchange, etc.

You will also be responsible for providing support for
other projects team is working on (i.e. web development).

Due to the technical nature and demanding work environment,
this position is suitable for someone with solid experience
developing iApps and who has proficiency in Objective C and
iOS SDK technologies. In addition, since this role requires
coordination with multinational team members and managers,
business-level communications skills in both English and
Japanese will be required, although English-only and
Japanese-only applicants will be considered.

Remuneration is JPY4.5m – JPY6m depending on your
experience and skill level.

** POSITIONS VACANT

- Enterprise Support Mgr, global sw co, JPY8M – JPY11m
- Snr Web Apps Dev, global ceramics co., JPY4.5m – JPY5.5m
- Move/Add/Change Coordinator, global bank, JPY4m – JPY5m
- Marketing Comms Specialist, global sw co, JPY6m – JPY8m
- Netcare Engineer, BiOS, JPY4m – JPY5m

Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to:
tomohiro.kimura@biosjp.com

** BiOS Job Mail

Every 2 weeks BiOS sends out a regular communication to its
job seeking candidates, called BiOS Job Mail. Every edition
carries a list of BiOS's current and most up-to-date
vacancies, with each entry featuring a short job
description and a direct link to the main entry on the BiOS
home page. Regardless of whether you are unemployed and
searching, thinking about a career change, or just curious
to know if there is something out there that might suit you
better, the BiOS Job Mail newsletter is an easy and
convenient way for you to stay informed. If you would like
to register for the BiOS Job Mail, or to find out more,
please email kenji.sakota@biosjp.com.

Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to:
tomohiro.kimura@biosjp.com

-----------------------------------------------------------

***------------------------****-------------------------***

+++ UPCOMING EVENTS/ANNOUNCEMENTS

---------------- CCH Labor Law Seminar --------------------

CCH Japan presents its 'Japan Labor & Employment Law
Seminar 2011'

Covered are the following key topics:
- Avoiding HR Management pitfalls in your business
- Dealing with salary reductions, poor performance, sexual
harassment, bullying, creating work rules,etc.

Date: Friday, 24th June 1:30pm-5:00pm
Venue: Happo-en 5F Linden Room
Language:English
Speaker:Hideki Kano Attorney, Anderson, Mori & Tomotsune
Fees: 20,000JPY+Tax

Register: https://www.cch-japan.jp/contents/register/form
Related Books: Japanese Labor & Employment Law and Practice
1st Edition (published 10th June)

* Seminar participants qualify for special 10% discount!
For more details, please contact us at: support@cch.co.jp,
or 03-3265-1161.
www.cch-japan.jp
-----------------------------------------------------------

------------------ ICA Event - June 16 --------------------

Speaker: Jack Byrd, Managing Partner - 360 Risk Management
Group
Title: Prevent/Detect Workplace Fraud

Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/
(RSVP Required)

Date: Thursday, June 16, 2011
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Buffet Dinner included and cash bar
Cost: 4,000 yen (members), 6,000 yen (non-members).
Open to all.

Venue is The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan
http://www.fccj.or.jp/aboutus/map
-----------------------------------------------------------

--------------- Start a Company in Japan ------------------

Entrepreneur's Handbook Seminar 16th of July, 2011

If you have been considering setting up your own company,
find out what it takes to make it successful. Terrie Lloyd,
founder of over 17 start-up companies in Japan, will be
giving an English-language seminar and Q&A on starting up a
company in Japan.

This is an ideal opportunity to find out what is involved,
and to ask specific questions that are not normally
answered in business books. All materials are in English
and are Japan-focused. Over 450 people have taken this
seminar in the last 8 years, and approximately 20% have
gone on to form companies.

For more details:
http://www.japaninc.com/entrepreneur_handbook_seminar
-----------------------------------------------------------

***------------------------****-------------------------***

+++ CORRECTIONS/FEEDBACK

In this section we run comments and corrections submitted
by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and
amplify our points, by email, to editors@terrie.com.

*** In Terrie's Take 615, we wrote about how the government
came up with its energy saving figures. A helpful reader
offers the likely answer:

=> Reader:
In the newsletter, it seemed like you wondered where the
25% figure for energy reduction came from, instead of the
15% figure that keeps appearing in the media.

The original goal of 6% energy reduction was from Team
Minus Six, "Team Minus 6%" was established in April 2005 as
a Japanese international commitment to the Kyoto Protocol,
and is a national campaign against global warming aimed at
cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 6%. The team leader is
the Prime Minister and the sub-leader is the Minister of
the Environment.

Reference:
http://www.team-6.jp/english/about.html

This morphed into "Challenge 25" starting January 2011
(even before the Great East Japan Earthquake) which had the
new goal of a 25% reduction. This campaign consists of the
following six challenges (my translation, no English
translation on the official web site):

1. Choosing Eco Lifestyle: CoolBiz, WarmBiz, My Bag, Public
Transportation
2. Choosing Low Energy Appliances: LED/CFL lightbulbs,
Purchasing Replacement Energy Efficient Appliances, Eco
Automobiles
3. Choosing Natural Energy: Solar, Wind, Water, Green Power
4. Choosing Building and Home Eco: Eco Reform, Eco
Building/Office
5. Choosing Carbon Dioxide Reduction: (Low) Carbon
Footprint Goods, Carbon Offset Goods, Local Producers
6. Participating in Activities to Stop Global Warming:
Participating in Events, Car Share/Rental Bicycles, Park
and Ride

Reference:
http://www.challenge25.go.jp/index.html

***********************************************************
END

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+++ ABOUT US

STAFF
Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd@japaninc.com)

HELP: E-mail Terrie-request@mailman.japaninc.com
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editor to terrie.lloyd@japaninc.com.

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Copyright 2011 Japan Inc. Communications Inc.

----------------- Japan Inc opens up Japan ----------------

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Visit www.japaninc.com for the best business insight on
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