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Japan: Newspapers launch news portal “Aratanisu”, bloggers respond

Three of Japan's largest newspapers, Nikkei Inc., Asahi Shimbun Co. and Yomiuri Shimbun Holdings, on Thursday together launched a new online news portal referred to as Aratanisu (“新s” in Japanese). The site aims to provide side-by-side coverage of news stories from each newspaper in order to allow readers to easily draw comparisons on front page news, general news and editorials. Links from article summaries on the main Aratanisu webpage lead to original articles posted at the newspapers in question.

Bloggers have reacted with skepticism at the new portal [ja], pointing to the absence of RSS feeds, to the lack of any long-term archiving function, and to the lack of interest on the part of users in comparing news coverage from major papers. Many have also questioned the need for another news site [ja] given the existence of news aggregators like Google News. Others have reflected on the lack of coverage of areas such as economics, international news, sports, and culture [ja].

Not all users were critical of the site, however. Twitter user youzaka, for example, explains the name “Aratanisu” itself and the URL in a positive light:


Just as I thought, the naming of “Aratanisu” is amazing precisely because professionals came up with it. The word ANY is properly included inside AllataNYs, “新s” gives the sense of something new, and 新 means “new” — in other words it is a NEWs site.

Many bloggers did not find the name so appealing, however. Blogger atm2k2 writes:


“Aratanisu”? The name isn't very good, is it. I thought it was an advertisement for Astellas Pharma. It's actually a joint Internet enterprise set up by Asahi, Yomiuri and Nikkei newspapers.


Are they seriously thinking that at this stage, with this kind of thing they will attempt to stage a return of newspapers? I think it would be better if they saw their aim as being somewhere else. What are they going to start with this “alliance of successful newspapers”?

At Gato News, meanwhile, blogger and former journalist Fujishiro Hiroyuki, co-author of the book “Blog Journalism: Media for 3 million people” [ja], wrote of the news project:


Attracting attention under the project name ANY, “Aratanisu”, a joint website of Asahi, Nikkei and Yomiuri [newspapers], has opened. Not only does it have a tongue-twisting name, but it is also unpopular among net users, who comment about the site that “there is nothing new”, and that “GoogleNews is better”. Personally, however, I think the concept of comparing articles from the three companies is quite interesting. I don't know how much general users will actually use it, but for those with an interest in news, it seems to be easy-to-use, and it would also appear to be useful for teaching information literacy.



The function of Aratanisu is not only, as a news aggregator, to channel access to sites of the three companies, but is also clearly to [serve as a source of] sales. As in their catchphrase “front page for comparison”, the top page of each newspaper is available for reading and contrasting, but in addition pages for society, editorials, themes of interest, and book reviews are also compared, and differences in tone of argument and perspective are clearly evident. Below the comparison pages, there are also comments from the editorial boards of Nikkei, Asahi and Yomiuri about how the day's news was perceived, and the interface is easy to use.



Newspaper companies create content, and while there still appear to be people who play down (or worse, look at with hostility) news aggregators, I think that the essential value of “editing (how to display and, in the sense of a newspaper company, arrange)” — i.e. how to show these contents, and how to deliver them to users — has become clear. That topics at Yahoo are read a lot is also due to the strength of their editing. Just as commodities will not sell just by exhibiting them, in the same way if some scheme is devised for presenting information, then there is the possibility that it will be more widely read.

The most bookmarked blog article on the topic, however, is almost certainly that of blogger and former television director anti-monos, who compared the new site to another joint news portal, 47news (for background about 47news see this YouTube video in English). In the post, bookmarked by nearly 300 Hatena users, anti-monos writes:


Frankly speaking, “Aratanisu” will fail for sure. Similar to 47NEWS, [a news site] launched by an alliance between Kyodo News Service and local newspapers, [Aratanisu] will end up losing its readers. While it astonished me that the site has no RSS feed, what will really do them in is that the organization [of the site] itself does not stray even a single millimeter from the mass media logic of newspapers.


In terms of its contents, the website is first of all an introduction and comparison of front-page articles from Asahi, Nikkei and Yomiuri. There are also editorials and themes of interest from each newspaper lined up. The main feature that differs from the pages of [print] newspapers is that, [on this site], experts referred to as “newspaper guides” teach [readers] how to read newspapers. As one would expect, since it is national newspapers that have gathered [this content], these “newspaper guides” are all eminent figures such as University of Tokyo professor Itou Motoshige and former Chairman of the Association of Corporate Executives Kobayashi Youtarou.


However, when I came to the “front page articles”, “themes of interest”, “editorials” and “newspaper guides”, I really realized that there is no hope [for Aratanisu]. Because it is the same as existing newspapers. Or in other words, all of it has this self-assertive “looking down on you” perspective.


Front-page articles, for example, serve the purpose for the newspaper company of saying: “This is the most important news that Japan's citizens should know about!” Well, that's fine as a self-centered ego trip for newspaper companies, but what newspaper reporters are really concerned about is whether their articles make front-page headlines. They are forcing on their readers newsworthiness judgments of newspaper companies. “Editorials” are already an “imposition”, for which no explanation is necessary.



The aspect of the Internet that existing media absolutely does not understand, one that moreover they cannot instinctively accept, is [the idea that] “editorial authority is entrusted to readers”. Newspapers, radio, television — the organization of all existing media places value judgments about news in the hands of the mass media, with recipients simply receiving these judgments. What [is covered] and how it is treated, from beginning to end this is entirely dependent on the mass media. In other words, it is a situation in which “editorial authority is able to control everything”. Or to put it another way, it is a total “imposition”. It is for this reason that the mass media instinctively cannot accept [information] transmission and editing by users of blogs, SNS, and so on.


However, on the Internet, on 2-channel and Nico Nico Douga, “news” created by the mass media is nothing more than “stories” [neta] to get fired up talking about. As soon as it hits the net, contents from the mass media are freed of the “news value” that the mass media tries to impose on them. This can be good and it can be bad. But as this is tied up with the very identity of the mass media, they [media] absolutely cannot comprehend it. Reporters with hardly any life experience, receiving an average income of several million yen per year, charging expenses for food and drink while talking about politics, economics and the state of the world, returning home late at night by taxi only to then grieve in the newspaper about a society of wage disparity — this happy-go-lucky era for mass media is already nearing its end.


  • […] That’s my rough translation of the first line describing a seminar, held on March 15th by the Institute of Engineering Innovation at the University of Tokyo, entitled “Miete kita mirai” (見えてきた未来/The future that has come into view). The line reminds me of the words of well-known IT journalist Sasaki Toshinao, who expresses eloquently the challenges faced by Japan’s “lost generation” in an era of uncertainty and rapid change. I was lucky enough to catch this event because I semi-regularly read the blog of Fujishiro Hiroyuki, one of four speakers at the event. Like Sasaki, Fujishiro is a Japanese blogger/journalist who I greatly admire, and whose views I have translated and introduced elsewhere. […]

  • […] writes that the move, which comes less than a year after the creation of shared news portal Aratanisu, signals a sense of impending crisis in Japan's newspaper industry. Posted by Chris Salzberg […]

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