Back to Contents of Issue: November 1999

The business of E-business in Japan

by Tom Spargo

Goodbye Computing Japan. Hello J@pan Inc. LINC Media's decision to change formats is one that many media companies in the U.S. have made over the past few years. The reason: Internet technology and business are becoming inseparable and the traditional formats of reporting the news no longer apply. Both information technology and business publications are adapting to this change by becoming e-business news sources featuring content in paper and electronic forms. This shift towards e-business has also created opportunities for many new magazines and Web-zines to emerge.

The best example of adaptation from business news to e-business news is the standard bearer of business-The Wall Street Journal. Several years ago, it launched the Wall Street Journal Interactive edition and began to feature e-business news in its Technology section. Critics scoffed at the Interactive edition's subscription fee and said the revenue model would never work. Today the Journal is one of the best sources of e-business news and analysis and its Interactive edition is enormously successful. Not to be outdone, Business Week launched a special edition on e-business earlier this year and now features e-business in every issue; they also provide an excellent e-mail news program.

Change has also been coming rapidly to the IT news world. Penton Publication's Internet World went from being the tech-heavy WebWeek to Internet World-"the voice of E-business and Internet Tech- nology." In July of this year, Internet World changed its physical format from a tabloid newspaper to magazine style in standard letter size. The content was revamped to be almost half e-business news, and the magazine launched a daily e-mail newsletter program to show its commitment to keeping readers up to date on e-business. Wired Magazine and Information Week are two more magazines that are starting to shed their techno-nerd image by featuring e-business stories.

The most exciting part of the shift to the e-business news format has been the creation of some completely new publications in the real and virtual world. Fast Company, Business 2.0, and The Industry Standard are some of the more recent ones to emerge specifically to cover business in the Internet economy. My favorite is Busi-ness 2.0, which makes a point of explaining the "new economy, new rules, new leaders" in each issue. In the digital world, the business of e-business news is very competitive, with many websites offering free e-business news delivered right to your desktop. CNET's and Newsedge are two pure Internet plays attempting to provide e-business news via e-mail and browser.

The shift to e-business has even reached the shores of Europe. Today's Economist regularly writes on the topic. A new magazine called Tornado-Insider has also just begun with a mission "to inspire high-growth, high-tech Europe." Tornado-Insider analyzes Euro-pean Internet ventures and is looking very much like a European Red Herring.

Now what about Japan? LINC Media is really one of the first media sources in Japan to recognize this important shift in business brought on by the Internet. Nikkei has its NikkeiNet, but the Internet focus is not nearly as dominant as in its New York counterpart, the Wall Street Journal. IT magazines in Japan remain largely focused on specific technologies and concepts. New magazines could still emerge but without a big marketing budget would face tough competition in a market that already has too many magazines. Web-zines face the persistent problem of low PC penetration and expensive Internet access charges in Japan.

It is often said that Japan remains a few years behind the U.S. in terms of adoption of information technology at the corporate level. If we assume that there is a correlation between the adoption of technology and the degree to which the technology is covered in the media, it makes sense that so much of the Internet space in Japan remains unclaimed. As a Japan e-business enthusiast, I can only hope that the other media groups in Japan take note of LINC Media's move by following suit. Information is the key to innovation. The Silicon Valley e-business culture that is sweeping the U.S. and Europe will never take hold in Japan unless its significance is duly covered in the media.

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