Remember my recent post praising Asahi’s Japanese website for getting better and better? Well I take it all back. Asahi’s website is about to get worse.
Mere days after I lauded Asahi for making their Japanese-language website more useful, the site has decided to take a huge step back.
According to a Feb 26 news release, they will no longer offer the “Today’s Morning Edition” service as of March 4. The feature gave a full list of the day’s print edition headlines and offered one (almost) full-length article in each section per day. It was a great way for people who can’t get access to the paper to ascertain what is making news in Japan.
But no more. Editorials and the front-page column “Tensei Jingo” will still be available going back 1 week, but otherwise you have to go to fee-based sites such as Asahi Perfect to get access. No other explanation is given.
The Morning Edition section wasn’t started all that long ago (I can’t seem to find a reference to when they started it), but I’m presuming they started it on a trial basis to see if offering one free article per section would attract sufficient interest in the fee-based services. I’m guessing that they didn’t generate enough interest, not that the feature was marketed all that well (I didn’t notice it existed until I decided to check the editorial section one day).
If this decision is one made by the new editor that asahi.com was looking for, I humbly request they reconsider. Offering more of Asahi’s flagship content online will only attract more interest in the site and would not hurt newspaper sales.
I can understand why Asahi, the number 2 newspaper in Japan, is reluctant to take the plunge into offering more free content. Japan’s newspaper circulation has been falling much more slowly than their American counterparts. In particular, the Asahi’s circulation has declined by only 2% from 1996-2006, though that slightly outpaces the industry-wide drop of 0.5% for the entire industry (1995-2005, all figures in absolute terms). Though I can’t be bothered to dig up roughly comparable statistics, this 2005 Washington Post article indicates that US newspaper circulation has been plummeting for 20 years, due to restrictions on telemarketing and competition from the Internet/cable TV, 3 problems that have not proven major obstacles for the Japanese industry.
Still, I’m shocked that they’re just pulling the rug out from what was a great service (I mean, you wanted to read the full report on recently unearthed diaries by Major General Taro Utsunomiya describing the March 1st uprising in 1919 colonial Korea, didn’t you?). Ah well, none of this will matter come April when I’ll more than likely become a print subscriber anyway.