Let’s make content as robust as possible

  “Content” first made its appearance in Japanese as a loanword in the mid-90s. It refers to information products such as movies, television shows, books, CDs, and DVDs. Even the government has pinned its hopes on this 15 trillion yen industry and has announced a goal to expand it by a further 5 trillion yen. However, for these past few years the market has been contracting and areas such as anime and music have been continuously pressed by competition from Korea.
 What was the best content policy of all time? I believe it was the moment in 1957 when 34 private TV stations were simultaneously granted licenses, thus expanding the television industry and creating what would come to be the content leaders in Japan. What is needed in order to ensure that content stays robust is not meticulously divvying out subsidies, but rather a dynamic policy plan that opens up the airwaves and allows new media to take shape, and the political will to make it happen.
 The content market may have contracted, but social media services are undergoing growth. Whether it’s twitter, Facebook or NicoNico Douga, social media services facilitate communication. In other words, these are services which allow individual amateurs to produce their own content.
 What has been the biggest effect of digitalization? I would point to the increase in the number of content producers. As anyone became able to send information using their computer or cellphone, the amount of information has increased explosively. In the decade following 1995, the content market expanded 5.8 percent. In that time, the amount of data being sent and received in Japan increased by a factor of 20.9. Even when industry is not experiencing any growth, content is being actively created.
 Individual content as a means of communication can be counted as part of the telecom industry. An individual making and distributing their own content is creating their own market, defined by the cost of transmission, and which they are responsible for structuring. The telecom market is worth 15 trillion yen yearly. Digitalization will cause the 14 trillion yen content market and the 15 trillion yen communications market to merge. Deciding how to redesign the approximately 30 trillion yen market that will result has become the task of public policy.
 What we want is a policy package that is fixed around the axes of content and social media.
 First, we make it so money circulates throughout the content industry, by abolishing corporate taxes on the content industry and establishing a tax system that encourages donations towards cultural activities.
 We protect and encourage the ability of people to participate in social sharing services by promoting Comic Market and Hatsune Miku and translating pop culture websites with the potential to reach overseas audiences into several different languages.
 We guarantee the means of distribution. Buy up foreign media frameworks aimed towards Japanese content; in other words, television channels. Copyright is also a problem. Create a special section of copyright law that will force us to try a new business model.
 There are any number of ideas. What we really need is the political will to put them into practice.


Japan’s Digital Signage

  Have you heard of “digital signage”? The term refers to the electric signs you see spread across town. On the walls of buildings, the insides of stations, convenience store cash registers, indoors and out, we are practically buried under net-capable displays of all sizes. This form of new media is expected to grow up to a trillion yen industry.
 Because of this, it has been a full five years since the formation of the Digital Signage Consortium, and there are 100 member companies. I am serving as its president. In the beginning, these types of signs were called by many names, including “electric billboard,” and “out of home media,” but often were lumped together and vaguely referenced with the umbrella term “digital signage.” After all, some of them were neither billboards nor advertisements at all, and there were also many indoor varieties. It was an ill-defined type of media whose central concept had yet to solidify.
 In the few intervening years, this signage has undergone many great changes. These can be summed up as three Ps.
1. Personal
  The signage which has already spread throughout business facilities of all types has begun its advance into the home. Photo frames and tablet PCs with broadband connections, signage which makes it possible for information to reach directly into living rooms, are being turned towards use in commerce. Even signage which, unlike televisions, PCs, and cellphones, is switched on 24/7, has found a place in the home. Japan, with its high saturation of fiber optic internet service is a step ahead of the rest of the world in this regard.
2. Public
 Signage is recognized as a form of advertising media. However, businesses do not use it exclusively as a means of advertisement. Even in ordinary offices, signage is being put to use as a way for employees to share information with one another. Moreover such signage is also proliferating in schools, hospitals, and public offices. Universities using displays to broadcast information about lessons as well as employment bulletins. Hospitals with screens informing patients when it is their turn in the examination room, or displaying information about dosage and payment amount. Municipal governments using signs throughout town to spread information about disaster prevention. There is a healthy possibility that such public uses could trigger a growth in highly signage which is placed so to visible to everyone.
3. Pop
 Japan serves as a unique model due to its status as the Pop-Culture Country. Signage on vending machines. Signage that interfaces with game systems, karaoke and pachinko machines alike. Eye-catching content featuring anime characters. We are, after all a country that uses washlet toilets, and signage is even being developed for the bathroom.

It’s impossible to take your eyes of Japan’s evolving signage.


The mechanism which gave birth to Hatsune Miku.

  Hatsune Miku is the name of synthetic voice DTM(Desktop Music) software created five years ago. With over 36,000 songs created, more than 10,000 videos uploaded, and views on her various media numbering well into the ten thousands, she has grown into a singer who can proudly call herself the most prolific musical artist in the world.
 Hatsune Miku's power flows from three sources: Technology, Pop, and Community.
 First, the technology of Vocaloid is one that allows anyone to possess their own dedicated singer. It has removed the barriers between songwriting and performance, making accessible the possibility of song quality even top-class pros will use.
 In addition, the visual presentation is imbued with all the flavor of her cute “pop” style character. 16 years old, 158cm tall, and weighing in at 42kg, the content comprises many elements of “moe.” She is the synthesis of two of Japan’s greatest strengths: creative production (technology) and expressive ability (content).
 Furthermore, there is the community generated culture of creative participation. Derivative works produced for NicoNico Douga and YouTube, and the connections between these works, songs, and videos have proliferated. As long as song writers and producers are on board with it any of the various forms of community participation are accepted and encouraged, be it video making, singing, performance, cosplay, or dance. It is a culture built on user-driven content creation, sharing, and distribution.
 Open source software has had a multiplicatory effect on technology. Hatsune Miku style content creation, which provides “Expression for Everyone,” is the source of Cool Japan. It was inevitable that a culture of creation such as that surrounding Hatsune Miku would originate from Japan.
 Now, Miku is an international star. This is the point in history from the serious use smart phones and social media services will begin.  This is something being anticipated by both the global market of content providers and the “real” markets. Goods such as toys and snack foods are already being sold, and businesses are heading towards the route of hosting live shows and cosplay events in order to generate, and monetize, enthusiasm among their users.
 It is a new business in which the user creates the product. With so many people working together, using a single characters to create many different works and goods, we can likely predict more growth from this business model in the future.
 The task before us, then, becomes the creating a long term environment which will give rise to the second and third generations of Hatsune Miku. Hatsune Miku, a chance creation who was raised into what she is today by the community.  She is a good daughter, brimming with creativity, and we hope to see the birth of many more like her in the future.


TV: From convergence to smart

  In 2011, “Convergence of communication/broadcast” policy and legal system was enacted.  This allows us to use the same frequency for both communication and broadcast.  This was, even from an international standard, a groundbreaking deregulation.  Digitalization of terrestrial television took about 20 years and was completed in 2011.  High-speed Internet became available all around the country.  A merged digital network for both broadcast and communication was established.  Japan was blessed with a highly sophisticated environment.
 20 years ago, convergence of communication/broadband and digital broadcast were a taboo.  The broadcast industry, which had a lot of political power, was not up for it.  I was the first one in the Japanese government to take charge of convergence policies.  I had a very difficult time to say the least.
 But when NHK started NHK on demand in the end of 2008, other TV stations started to work on distribution of digital contents, broadcast for mobile devices, and collaboration with SNS.  The Internet business started to turn profits, and production firms followed the trend.

 But it’s still pretty slow.  On January of 2006, Apple, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft released their video distribution businesses in the U.S.  Firms in the broadcast industry such as CBS and NBS quickly established partnerships with IT firms and started distributing contents.  At the same time in Europe, national/public broadcasters like BBC, France TV, and Germany ZDF started to lead the merger movement.   Japan was 3 years behind.
 Events such as acquisition of Dow Jones by News Corp, or acquisition of Motorola-mobile by Google indicate that this goes beyond the boundary of “communication/broadcast”.  Today, on a global basis, every kind of media is involved including newspapers, publishers, computers, and other media forms.   

 Furthermore, as broadcasters in Japan began to accelerate their movement towards the Internet, the global playground saw a change.  “Smart-TVs”.  In the past 2-3 years, smartphones and tablet devices spread quickly, and in result, TV has been swallowed by the “Smart” trend as well.
 While IT firms like Google and Apple are seeking to take over TV screens, broadcast firms like Time Warner or Comcast see this trend as an opportunity as well.  Communication firms like AT&T or Verizon are very aggressive too.  In Europe, firms are reforming their structure as we saw in the partnership between BBC and BT.  
 Smart-TV goes beyond looking at the Internet on TV.  It’s a new service that combines multi-screen, cloud network, and social services.  Better yet, it’s a borderless business field with the entire world in play.  No firms have yet established a clear business model yet.
 Japan’s already behind.  Do you think we still have a shot?