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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 allatanys.jp in a positive light:

やっぱプロが編み出しただけあって「あらたにす」のネーミングセンスはすごい。仮称のANYがAllataNYsの中にちゃんと入っているし、”新s”ということで新しいかんじプンプンだし、新はNEWなのでこれすなわちNEWsサイトでもある。

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:

「あらたにす」ですか。ネーミングが良くないね。あすてらす製薬の広告かと思ってしまった。朝日新聞と読売新聞、日本経済新聞が立ち上げたインターネット共同事業のことである。

“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.

 いまどき、こんなもので新聞への回帰を図ろうなんて真剣に考えているのでしょうか。狙いは別のところにあると見た方がよさそうだ。「新聞勝ち組連合」で何かを始めようということか。

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:

プロジェクト名・ANYとして注目されていた日経・朝日・読売の合同サイト「あらたにす」がオープンしました。舌をかみそうなネーミングだけでなく、ネットユーザーからはサイトについても「新しさがない」「GoogleNewsのほうがいい」などとイマイチ評判が良くないようですが、個人的には3社の記事を比べるというコンセプトはなかなか面白いと思います。一般ユーザーがどれくらい使うか分かりませんが、ニュース好きにとっては使い勝手がありそうですし、情報・リテラシー教育などにも使えそうです。

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.

[…]

あらたにすは、ニュースアグリゲーターとして3社のサイトにアクセスを流すという役割だけでなく、「売り」も明確です。「くらべる一面」というキャッチコピーの通り、一面の読み比べがトップページとなっていますが、社会面、社説、注目テーマなどに加えて書評も比べられ、各社の論調、視点の違いが良くわかります。くらべる一面の下のほうには日経・朝日・読売の編集局からその日のニュースをどのように捉えているのかコメントもあり、インターフェイスも分かりやすい。

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.

[…]

新聞社はコンテンツを生み出していることもあり、いまだにニュースアグリゲーターを軽視(どころか敵視)している人もいるようですが、コンテンツだけでなく、そのコンテンツをいかに見せるか、ユーザーに届けるかと言う「編集(見せ方、新聞社で言う整理)」の価値が重要なことが明確になったと思います。ヤフーのトピックスがよく読まれているのも、この編集の力です。商品を単に陳列するだけでは売れないように、情報も同じで見せ方を工夫すれば、より読まれる可能性があります。

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:

はっきり言ってしまえば、「あらたにす」は間違いなく失敗する。かつて共同通信と地方紙連合が立ち上げた47NEWSと同じくらい、過疎状態になる。なぜダメかと言うと、RSSに対応していないのも驚いたが、構成自体が新聞といったマスコミの論理から1ミリも抜け出せていない。

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.

コンテンツの中身を見ると、まずは朝日、日経、読売の一面記事を紹介して比べる。さらに社説、各紙の注目テーマが並ぶ。新聞紙面と違う目玉と言えば、「新聞案内人」なる有識者が、新聞の読み方を教えてくれる。さすが全国紙が集めてきただけあって、「新聞案内人」は伊藤元重東大教授、小林陽太郎元経済同友会代表幹事などそうそうたる面々になっている。

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.

だが「一面記事」、「注目テーマ」、「社説」、「新聞案内人」と来て、気がついてしまった。やはりダメだと。既存の新聞そのものなのだ。つまり、すべてが「上から目線」で押し付けがましい。

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.

例えば一面記事というのは、新聞社が「きょう日本国民が知っておくべき最も重要なニュースはこれです!」という意味を持つ。まあ、勝手な新聞社の独りよがりなのだが、新聞記者というのは自分の記事が一面になるかどうかがかなり気になる。読者に新聞社のニュース価値判断を押し付けている。「社説」はもはや説明の必要もないほどの「押し付け」。

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.

[…]

既存のマスコミが絶対に理解できない、かつ生理的にも受け付けられないネットの特徴は「編集権を読者に委ねている」ということ。新聞、ラジオ、テレビと既存のマスコミはすべてニュース価値をマスコミの側で判断し、それを受け手に与えるという構造だった。何をどう扱うかは最初から最後まで、すべてマスコミ次第。つまり「編集権を完全にコントロールできる」状態。言い方を変えれば完全なる「押し付け」だ。だから、マスコミはブログやSNSなど受け手の側が発信、編集するというのは生理的にも受け入れられない。

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.

ところがネットだと、2ちゃんねる、ニコニコ動画でも、マスコミの作った「ニュース」はすべて盛り上がるための「ネタ」に過ぎない。ネットに放たれたとたん、マスコミのコンテンツは、マスコミ自身が与えたお仕着せの「ニュース価値」から開放されてしまう。良くも悪くもなのだが。そこがマスコミにはアイデンティティに関わるだけに、決定的に理解できない。平均年収千数百万をもらっていても、社会経験などほとんどない記者が経費で飲み食いしながら、政治、経済、天下国家を語り、経費のタクシーで深夜に帰宅、そして紙面では格差社会を嘆くなどという、マスコミにとっては能天気な時代はもはや終わろうとしているのに。

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.

2 comments

  • […] 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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