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Japanese People and Smartphones

Part II: How will news media change?

Smartphone penetration is significantly changing Japanese lifestyles. The changes generally appear in connection with media- and news-related information. Below, researchers from Video Research Ltd. and Dentsu Innovation Institute discuss the current state of media information, as highlighted by the findings of a jointly conducted survey.

Japanese People and Smartphones (Part 2)

Oku:

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Internet-based news in Japan. As mentioned in the first installment of "Japanese People and Smartphones," smartphones are driving significant lifestyle changes and transforming the media and news environment. Together with Video Research Ltd., we are studying the changes.

Miwa:

The chronology above summarizes the development of Internet-based news media, and changes in the way they are used by people. Even over the past five years, we have seen new trends come and go in the sphere of Internet news, and believe that the smartphone is one of the factors currently driving change.

Watanabe:

In the first installment, we provided an overview of typical smartphone usage patterns. For example, a user typically adopts LINE as their communication hub, and opens various other apps at intervals of only around 10 seconds while going back and forth to the LINE app. People in their teens, 20s and 30s come into contact with news and other information while communicating at a very busy pace. The survey we conducted on this occasion, "The Direction of News and Media in the Era of Curation," approached such key points—from a news-focused perspective—as the type of media people were viewing and the kind of information that was being consumed.

Amano:

The key point was to analyze the variations in information sources that people rely on, and then to look at how the relationship between traditional media and Internet media has been transformed, and how the resultant respective roles are changing. We also examined the opportunities and characteristics driving the media behavior of users.

Watanabe:

First, let's briefly review the Internet news media over the past five years or so. From around 2010, individuals with expertise in particular fields began to add their own explanations and analyses of developments taking place in their respective fields. Further, we began to see the emergence of curation activities targeting, for example, followers on Twitter.

Around the same period, sites offering a summary, round-up or digest of information on the web of particularly timely topics began gaining popularity. Later on, we also saw the appearance of news curation media, which provide packaged, automated algorithms to determine online reputation or buzz and assign parameter values. Our entry point for looking at these developments was to focus on how the new phenomena are affecting the news and media environment. In addition, for this post we spoke with colleagues Kasumi Kishimoto and Yuta Ishikura at the Video Research Youth Lab, about news in the smartphone era.

Japanese People and Smartphones (Part 2)

Increasing casualization of news

An era in which familiar things take on news value

Watanabe:

We conducted a survey in March 2015, using a sample of 4,367 people drawn from across the nation, and with respondents aged 15–69 (excluding junior high school students). The research we have presented summarizes the findings of the survey, for which we classified media into 71 categories. We asked those surveyed, "Which media do you rely on?" and then grouped the answers into 13 classifications.

Miwa:

The results show that, overall, television and newspapers rank near the top of the information sources relied on, while the second-ranked source was news portal sites such as Yahoo! News, with many other Internet media ranked near the top. Further, if we analyze the age group-based demographic trends based on the 13 answer classifications, we see that people in their 30s rely on Internet-based news sources, while people in their 50s rely on terrestrial television, newspapers and magazines for news.

Oku:

The watershed is the 40–49 age group. It appears that people who were in their 20s when Internet news first appeared 20 years ago have a balanced range of media contact points that include traditional media.

Amano:

Based on the survey results, one can anticipate that eventually most people will rely on the Internet for their news. The results for other young age groups reveal that not only are the media sources on which they rely becoming more diverse, but the definition of the word "news" is expanding.

For example, people in their 20s ranked Wikipedia and other user-generated information-gathering sites as their No. 4 source of news; summary/round-up sites were ranked No. 7; and hot topic/buzz sites were ranked No. 13. Similar trends were observed for people in their teens and 30s.

Oku:

So we can see that what some age groups consider news does not fit the current, conventional definition of news. I first observed this among audiences at my lectures about four or five years ago. Young people nowadays consider news to be things within a radius of about three meters from themselves. Thus, they will say, "I found a video of a cute dog," or "My friend has a new boyfriend. " What our generation considers news—the things reported in the newspaper or on TV—are classified by young people as "events taking place in the world." Things close at hand are news, and other things are events occurring in the wider world. The survey responses support this observation.

Kishimoto:

In July 2015, as part of a workshop for young people, the Video Research Youth Lab conducted a survey in which they asked how those surveyed perceived media share. We found that, as well as TV and newspapers, LINE and the names of portal news sites were mentioned. Traditionally, in this type of survey, apart from such mass media as TV and newspapers, a lot of people tended to give relatively abstract responses, such as "the Internet." We wouldn't get a stream of names of specific apps or services.

Watanabe:

This is a recent trend. Since smartphone screens display an array of services—all of them as app icons with equal space—this may be what is driving such responses.

Oku:

Through social networking services (SNSs) and digital media curation, all kinds of events are consumed as news. It seems that for young people, political, economic and social news has the equivalent information value of announcing that one ate an omelet for lunch today.

Kishimoto:

I would just like to add that this survey indicates mind-share, and doesn't tell us that people are not watching TV. Even if the time spent watching TV is longer, the use of apps tends to result in a greater affect consciousness.

Watanabe:

If we ask survey subjects about the source of a product's recognition, the strength of TV commercials in establishing product recognition is clear. So, I wonder whether it's necessary to draw a dividing line between conscious and unconscious media contact when analyzing product recognition.

Oku:

Information is actively acquired through the Internet; to find out about something, one has to do a keyword-based search. However, if one doesn't know about something, one cannot search, or attempt to search, for it. Thus, TV plays an important role as an informative medium.

Kishimoto:

The names of celebrities, for example, are picked up from watching TV. For example, even if a professional model posts on Instagram, this will only become topical among girls who follow the model on Instagram and their immediate social circle. Unlike TV, it doesn't have the power to reach a wider audience.

Miwa:

A similar phenomenon was revealed through a survey looking at the name recognition of leading Internet-based commentators and critics. We asked survey respondents if they recognized names on a list of about 50 people. The listed people who scored recognition rates of 10% or more were those who had appeared on TV. Conversely, even if people publish very astute opinions, their name recognition score is extremely low if they haven't appeared on TV.

Oku:

We can probably say that there is a trend toward waning interest in the source of information—the details of who said what, and when they said it. The who-what-when-where-why-how method of communicating information—the conventional modus operandi of TV and newspapers—is breaking down. People are choosing only what interests them, and what they choose then becomes the news. A typical example is some moving story that does the rounds on social media. People who have already heard the story wonder how many times it has done the rounds, but people who see it for the first time see the story as news. If people around them haven't heard the story before either, it continues to be shared on social media platforms.

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