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Japan: Bulwark of citizen journalism closes shop

JanJanlogo01JanJan, Japan Alternative news for Justices and NewCultures, Japan’s most popular news website based entirely on citizen journalism is about to suspend publication.

At the end of March, the Japanese version of Ohmy News, launched in 2002 and following in the footsteps of its Korean counterpart, will shut up shop. It may be reopened in future, perhaps with a more up-to-date business model.

Many regular readers who received notice from JanJan explaining the decision to suspend the service, have expressed their discontent. Praising the website’s original intent to provide an alternative coverage of issues that major Japanese media fail to cover and to offset the power of entrenched institutions such as the notorious kisha clubs or press clubs.

zasenkyo_b3Devoted readers, like aoki0104, also are worried about the interruption to the portal Za Senkyo (ザ・選挙, The Elections), a complete and regularly updated database with information on politicians and elections throughout the whole country.

市民記者制度を日本ではじめて導入したインターネット新聞であるJANJANから休刊のお知らせがメールで届いた。休刊理由は社会環境の変化や広告収入の減少による経営悪化などとのこと。運営にどの程度のコストがかかるのか知りたいところ。人件費はもちろんのこと、サーバーの維持管理費などの固定的経費を考えるとまとまった額が必要なのだろうけど。特にザ・選挙の閲覧ができなくなるのが痛い。例えば、更新をおこなう必要はないのでどこかの研究機関がせめてデータだけでも引き継げるといいのだけど。過去の選挙データを無料で閲覧できるのは大変有難かった。結局、利用するユーザを巻き込んで支える仕組みをつくれなかったのが敗因なのかな。

I got an email from JanJan, the first internet newspaper to introduce the concept of citizen journalism in Japan, saying that it’s going to suspend publication. The reason seems to be the progressive worsening of the business due to changes in the social environment and reduction of ad revenues. Of course, the personnel and the server maintenance require fixed expenses but I’d like to know more about the management costs. What I am most concerned about is not being able to consult the section “Za Senkyo”. It would have been nice if they could pass the data on to a research institute, even if it wasn't going to be updated. In the past, it was so helpful that I could check election data for free.
Finally, I wonder if the cause of their failure is the fact that they were unable to create a platform that would involve the users more.
'Note: JanJan will be temporarily suspended' appeared on the JanJan home page.

‘Note: JanJan will be temporarily suspended’ appeared on the JanJan home page.

Also Nishi Hiroshi, a politician from Ibaraki prefecture is a big fan of “Za Senkyo” and JanJan in general.

インターネットの解禁も近くなりつつあるこの時期に、それを牽引してきた貴重なサイトが無くなってしまうという事は本当に残念で仕方がありません。

In an era when there almost all information is available on the internet, it’s really a pity that a website that was one of the most valuable pioneers is going to disappear.

[…]

現職の国会議員や一部の自治体議員についての一覧サイトなどは他にもありますが、全自治体の選挙結果や全ての候補者まで一覧で分かりやすく紹介しているサイトは他にはありません。唯一の貴重な存在だったのです。
それだけに運営する側としては大変なご苦労をされてきたのでしょうけれど…逆に言えばその蓄積は大きな財産であるのは間違いありません。
『ザ・選挙~JANJAN全国政治家デ ータベース』の部分については、最近選挙について積極的になりつつあるYahoo!や楽天とかがスポンサーになってくれないものでしょうかね…。
道のりは険しいでしょうけれど、どうにか復刊(継続)して欲しいサイトです。

Of course there are other sites where it is possible to obtain info on incumbent parliamentarians and officers of local government but there’s no site like this where it’s so easy to find the election results of all the local governments and candidates.
I guess that it must be very hard to manage all that but on the other hand, such a large accumulation of data has tremendous value.
Couldn't Yahoo! or Rakuten sponsor a part of Za Senkyo – JanJan National Politicians Database, since they have both been so proactive during the recent elections…?
I know it’s a difficult path but I really hope the site will be published again or continued somehow.

Learning of the interruption to a media site which relies on nearly 8,000 citizen journalists some bloggers speculated about the cause of it.
Parsley indicates as a possible cause the poor quality of the coverage due to the nature of citizen journalism and the lack of quality control on the content.

 結局のところ、ユーザー個々が良質と見做したコンテンツを検索エンジンで探したり、RSSリーダーに登録したり、iGoogleに登録したりして、自分 なりのプラットフォームをカスタマイズ出来る時代に、メディア自体をプラットフォームとして構築すること自体が時代遅れなのだろう。ユーザー側にアプロー チするためには、いかに良質なコンテンツを多く抱えているか、ということに注力しなければならない中、クオリティコントロールをまったく念頭に置いてこな かった市民参加メディアをどのようにこれからの反面教師としていくのかがポイントとなっていくのだろう。

At the end of the day, now that individual users can search for good quality content, using RSS fees or iGoogle and customize their platform as they like, I find it very out-of-date the idea of building a media site as a platform. In order to attract users, it is a must to focus on constantly providing content with excellent quality. The next step will be to see how much can be learned from a citizens media project that gave no thought to quality control.

Blogger toru_loves_you suggests that licensing its contents under Creative License would somehow have saved JanJan.

乱の末に消えてしまったOhmyNewsから1年近く.
ついに市民メディアの代表格だったJANJANが休刊を迎えることになった.
技術的な遅れ,報道の自主性の広がりが理由に挙がるが,1番の原因は広告収入の減収のようだ.
最近は折込ができるフリーペーパーが増えてきたが,Netの世界ではその実体のなさが命取りになったのだと思う.
手元まで届くかどうかの信頼性というのはやはり大きい.

It’s been only one year or so since Ohmy News disappeared.
And now also JanJan that was the representative of citizen media is going to suspend its publication.
They said that the reasons are out-of-date technology and the increasing independence of people from the media but the first cause is the decrease in advertising income.
Recently free papers with inserts are increasing but the lack of substance on the web is a fatal flaw in my opinion.
In particular, the credibility that stems from being able to hold something in your hand is what makes the difference.

後,広げた風呂敷が大き過ぎたのか,お金がかかるシステムに依存してしまって,休業せざるを得ないというのはもったいない話だ.
今年にはドメインも変わってしまったし,一体,何をしていたのだろうか.
この手のことはCreative Commonsライセンスの元で発展すれば良かったのにと思う.[…]
Creative Commonsライセンスを拒否することは一瞬で簡単にできてしまうが,その傷は徐々に徐々に大きくなる.

Too much dependence on a costly system has inevitably resulted in business failure and this is a pity.
This year the domain changed…what happened, I wonder?
I also think that they should have developed the whole system under a Creative Commons License.[…]
It takes only a split second to say no to such a license, but the loss stemming from that mistake gets bigger and bigger with every passing day.

Finally, harsh is the criticism to JanJan by blogger Ampontan in his accurate and illuminating review of the Japanese media landscape.

The publication, whose slogan was, “Citizens’ media by the citizens for the citizens,” has been around for seven years. They say ad revenue has fallen so drastically the enterprise is now unsupportable.
They’re probably telling the truth about the ad revenue, but they’re not telling us why the ad revenue dried up. Here’s a possibility—the site content wasn’t worth reading. The name JanJan is short for Japan Alternative News for Justices and New Cultures, and I’ll pause a second for everyone to roll their eyes. The articles on the site are just as ploddingly earnest and poorly written as one might gather from that title.
Their one good idea was to compile a database on the nation’s politicians, but only an extreme policy wank or political otaku would have found it useful.
Now, if the citizens had managed to dig up information such as the following [i.e. DPJ Secretary-General Ozawa's practice to buy journalists], it might have turned out differently for them.

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