TT-578 -- Using an SNS to Get People Going Out Again, e-biz news from Japan

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A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, August 22, 2010 Issue No. 578


- What's New
- News
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We certainly don't need to tell readers that anyone selling
in to the foreign market in Japan, and particularly the
expat market, is having a really tough time of it. Everyone
from foreigner grocery stores and luxury apartment rental
firms through to restaurants and escort services have
seen a drop-off in the amount of business they were doing
in 2009, and an even more dramatic drop when compared
to 2008.

The Nikkei confirms that part of the reason is because
there are in fact less free spending high-end foreign
consumers in Japan, otherwise known as foreign bankers. The
newspaper carried an article several weeks ago saying that
as of June 20th, 2010, foreign banks and other financial
services firms had 4,757 fewer employees, or 17% less, than
they did in March 2008.

While the reduced numbers reported by the Nikkei are not
broken down into expat versus local-hire staff, we can tell
from the state of the luxury apartment rental market that
many of those missing 4,700 people are in fact foreigners.
We are hearing repeated stories of luxury apartments going
for 50% or less of their pre-Lehman shock rentals, and
landlords being thankful for getting even this level of
return. And if you're trying to sell an expat-level luxury
apartment, best to put your plans on hold for 3-5 years
until some kind of recovery is in place...

Talking to home removals companies, while several say on
public forums that business is picking up, most are more
forthcoming in private and say that while the situation
may be bottoming out, there has been no significant pickup
in inbound foreign family business. This is a particularly
dire thing to be happening for foreigner-centric
organizations such as the Tokyo American Club,
international schools that have a policy of taking a
majority of expat (rather than mixed part-Japanese) families,
and in fact, our sister publication -- Metropolis magazine.

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see how the loss
of 17% of your core market, added to a sudden and sustained
contraction of consumer spending, would impact a free paper
whose main role is to entertain and guide consumers to
entertainment. Metropolis of course isn't the only free
paper to be so impacted, all of its foreign competitors are
in exactly the same boat, and in fact even some well-known
Japanese free papers are rumored to be in trouble at
present. But the fact is that Metropolis is so much more
dominant in the market (the paper accounts for over 60% by
volume of all the English-language free papers produced
across Japan), the impact is just that much larger.

Faced with this challenge, the Metropolis team to their
credit are doing what needs to be done, and are cutting
costs dramatically while still maintaining the quality of
content and thus audience appeal. This will be apparent
from the fact that page count in recent issues has come
down, although Metropolis still has its bi-weekly bumper
editions. Instead, listings and other detailed content has
been moved online and this approach will be quite obvious
if you look at issues from August onwards. Yes, Metropolis
is still producing prodigious amounts of content, and the
good news is that you can still get it. But you need to be
using a smart phone web browser or a PC to do so -- which
of course, most people are already doing. There will also be
an iPhone/iPad application shortly.

But while one can focus on cost cutting, after a
Lehman-type financial shock, sales also have to be rebuilt.
In particular, Restaurants and Bars have been very hard hit
by the recent recession and consumers are still reluctant
to go out and spend. These venues are core advertisers for
Metropolis and without their content, while Metropolis has
other ad income, issues without food and clubs is like a
hot dog without ketchup. Therefore, the management team has
decided to focus on bringing more business to these
establishments and in so doing bring eating-out ad revenues
back into the magazine.

This concept sounds simple, but what do you do if one of
your core audiences has left town? Metropolis realizes that
it is going to have to innovate and find new markets, and
that is exactly what is happening. Recently the magazine
started work on a beefed up set of tourist guides, and from
September will have tens of thousands of Chinese and Korean
guide books placed all over Tokyo including Narita airport
and in fact even in travel agencies throughout China and Korea.

Besides tourists, another market that is featuring larger
in Metropolis' plans is that of Japanese wanting to sample
the "foreign lifestyle in Japan" experience. This can be
equated with people graduating from English classes then
wanting to try out their new found skills on real
foreigners. This is obviously very topical right now, given
how many major Japanese companies have decided to go
international. The interaction can take place in many ways,
from dating and seminars, to sports clubs and recruiting.
Rather than create a new bilingual paper magazine, which
has been done already by the Hiragana Times, Metropolis
is going straight to the web to capture this new audience.

OK, so going on to the web with content is nothing new, but
what is unique about Metropolis' efforts is that it is
engaging its new audience with two very strong online
tools, and working them in tandem. The two tools are: an
SNS and a rewards system.

The Metropolis SNS: In case you didn't know, Metropolis
started its own SNS late last year. You can find it at:

The SNS has been a real success and and as of today
(Sunday, August 22nd) it is just 50 people shy of 10,000
members! Not bad for a small foreign magazine. The reason
the membership numbers are still going up by dozens of
people a day is because of the slew of Japanese members
finding the site looking for friends, partners, employers,
etc. In particular, take a look at any language or clubbing
group catering to foreign-Japanese interaction and you'll
find hundreds of Japanese members who are now discovering
the Metropolis community.

Then there is the other half of the equation, the
Metropolis Members Club (MMC): The MMC's objective is to
get readers, and particularly the SNS members, to go out
and socialize in the real world -- hopefully, of course,
using the restaurants and bars of advertisers and
collaborating partners.

This is all very logical and fits nicely with the overall
ecosystem concept, but to make sure that things really do
happen as intended, the Metropolis program managers have
gone all out to ensure that existing readers also stay
involved -- by incentivizing them with an impressive prize
calendar. Metropolis is offering over JPY15MM worth of free
prizes, awarded at the rate of one prize per week for the
next year, each one to be won by someone. This is a really
compelling value proposition, as the prize line-up
consists of dozens of return airline tickets, luxury hotel
stays, computers, clothing, dining for two, and other
products and services. There is also the fact that the MMC
partners themselves provide discounts and incentives at
their establishments -- kind of like an English version of

What do you have to do to become an MMC member? Right now,
simply sign up for the regular newsletter and check the
announcements of prize winners.

For those of us used to Western-style promotions and big
prizes from big corporations, this may all sound a bit old
hat, but believe us when we say that for a small publishing
operation in Japan, where starting anything new
promotionally is like pulling teeth, Metropolis is pretty
much the first in its field to pull off an ecosystem of
this size in the foreign community.

But now they have done it, it will be really interesting to
see how the experiment goes. Next week's prize is a
night's accommodation in Okinawa courtesy of the Okinawa
Marriott Resort & Spa. Two weeks ago, Jason Hammer won a
pair of tickets to any United Airlines direct destination
in the USA or Asia courtesy of United Airlines... All good

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+++ NEWS

- New condo built on shrine land
- Antibacterial solar tooth brush
- M&A activity expected to surge
- Ozawa to become PM?
- Yen intervention likely

-> New condo built on shrine land

One type of real estate you don't see come up much in the
English language media, and yet which is quite apparent in
certain areas of Tokyo is that of land owned by religious
shrines, which is parceled out on long-term leases.
Generally speaking, such land is marketed for about half
the going price due to the fact that it is leased and
ownership reverts to the shrine after a certain number of
years -- usually 20 years, renewable. So we saw with
interest a news item that Mitsui Fudosan Residential has
built a luxury condo on the land of Akagi Jinja in Shinjuku
-- as part of a 70-year contract. Perhaps more surprising,
given that everyone (or their grandkids at least!) has to
eventually move out is that almost all the 69 rooms have
been sold already. (Source: TT commentary from, Aug 20, 2010)

-> Antibacterial solar tooth brush

About the only thing you can't do with Shiken company's new
solar-powered electric toothbrush is have it play MP3's while
cleaning your chompers. The Soladey J3X creates an ionic
field at the brush head, to kill S.mutans bacteria in the
mouth and break down tooth plaque. Shiken's own website
includes an impressive number of endorsements from users
who say the brush is amazing... ***Ed: Time to dump our
trusty Philips Sonicare brush perhaps?** (Source: TT
commentary from, Aug 20, 2010)

-> M&A activity expected to surge

Nomura's M&A boss, Kentaro Okuda, has commented to Reuters
that Japanese companies are about to go on a buying spree,
thanks in part to the high yen. So far, Japanese firms have
been involved in 146 deals worth US$6bn around Asia, 92
deals worth US$15.7bn in the Americas, and 63 in Europe
worth US$5bn. Okuda reckons that for the full fiscal year,
there will be more than US$50bn of M&As by Japanese firms.
(Source: TT commentary from, Aug 20, 2010)

-> Ozawa to become PM?

Rumors are rife that Ichiro Ozawa, no one's favorite
politician but craftier than all the others put together,
will make a run for the DPJ leadership and thus the Prime
Minister's job, in the next few weeks. Even more salacious
than how he will do it is why. According to media
speculation, Ozawa stands a good chance of being indicted
for funding irregularities, and the only sure way to avert a
sentence will be to hold the PM position -- which would
apparently make him immune to the charges. (Source: TT
commentary from, Aug 20, 2010)

-> Yen intervention likely

Morgan Stanley analysts are saying that there is a more
than 51% chance that the Bank of Japan will step into the
Foreign Exchange markets and start buying dollars in order
to drive down the value of the yen, which is hurting
exporters. If this occurs, it will be the first time since
March 2004 that the BoJ has intervened. On Friday the yen
was trading at around JPY85 to the dollar and government
officials are saying it needs to be back around
JPY100=US$1. (Source: TT commentary from,
Aug 21, 2010)

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.


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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

*** In TT577 we ran a news item speculating that a new lab
animal experiment proves that different sugars are handled
by the body differently, and the old saw: "Sugar is sugar"
doesn't hold water. A few people responded to this, and the
following response was particularly interesting. (Yes, we
watched the whole 90-minute video. It's quite compelling.)

=> Reader comment: You commented, "... opens the question
as to whether there are "good" sugars and "bad" sugars..."

The answer is: "Yes there are bad sugars". I am not
qualified to explain it properly, but there is a very
informative video on Youtube in which a professor explains
it. Please take the time to listen to his 90-minute
lecture. He explains the body's "mechanics" for processing
different sugars, on a molecular level and along the way
also explains how the American FDA is mistakenly handling
"bad sugars".

The video title is "Sugar: the bitter truth" and the
presenter is Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of
Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology. The URL is:


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