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Japan: Blogosphere Reactions to the Nikkei Ban on Links

Growing up in a salaryman household in Japan, one assumes that in the future, one will start wearing a tie, drink coffee, and read the Nikkei. And that would mean that you're all grown up! Admittedly, this is a gross exaggeration but hopefully it conveys the tone of the Nikkei's presence in Japan.

Nihon Keizai Shimbun (日本経済新聞), more commonly known by its abbreviated name Nikkei, recently announced a link policy on their new website: inbound links to individual articles were banned and linking to the home page required permission. Failure to adhere might lead to the company seeking damages.

This didn't go over well in the Japanese blogosphere.

Sleepy or sleeping people including me:Urbanity 8' by Flickr user hira3 and used under a Creative Commons license

Photo by Flickr user hira3

Blogger hits-key is indignant:

そもそも日経はそれぞれの申請に逐一ていねいに審査しているのでしょうか? できるのでしょうか? リンクされたことによってトラブルが起きてはいけないからという企業イメージ保護戦略だとするならば,事なかれ主義にもほどがあります。一般的な無断リンクでは,日経が責任を問われることは少ないでしょう。道義的な責任すらです。

Is Nikkei actually going to evaluate each of the requests? Is that even possible? If this is a strategy to protect the corporate image from potential issues, enough is enough! It would be a rare case for Nikkei to be held responsible for a common link without prior consent. I doubt they'd even be held accountable for moral responsibility.

Ajiajin is tongue in cheek:

Japanese Twittersphere is reacting [J] against this as it is so old-fashioned and people question what Nikkei can earn or protect by that. I linked to the top page above without inquiry and will see if I am sued.

Having had experience working for a major newspaper, Kappei Nakano at ASCII is more understanding of Nikkei's position. He examined the link policies of the national newspapers and came up with three reasons on why they're so rigid.

理由1:クレームに対応したくないから
理由2:見出しに著作権が認められなかったから
理由3:個別の記事は更新、削除されることがあるから

Reason one: they don't want to deal with complaints
Reason two: titles aren't protected by copyrights
Reason three: individual articles can be updated or deleted

こうして見ると、新聞社のリンクポリシーは、担当者が馬鹿で時代遅れだから、無断リンクを禁止しているわけではない。コンプライアンス的配慮からリンクポリシーを策定して公開し、事業化できるかわからないのに時代に乗り遅れないようにWebでニュースを配信している、というのが新聞社側の言い分だろう。

ただ、リンクポリシーを策定する動機がどこかサラリーマン的で責任回避の姿勢が見え隠れするから、一部のユーザーに嗤われる。「原則自由だけど、引用先のことまでは責任が持てないよ」ということを大人の言葉で書けば十分のはずだが、新聞社のような明治生まれの業界に「リンクは自由で当たり前」の文化を持ち込むのは難しい。「馬鹿」と罵るのは簡単だが、「せめてトップページだけは自由に」と社内で根回ししている人たちの存在を思い出してみた。

The link policies by newspaper companies aren't set up this way because the person is charge is stupid or behind the times. The companies would insist that the policies are created to meet compliance requirements. In addition, they publish news online to stay relevant in today's world, not knowing whether it can become a profitable business.

However, there are hints of badly hidden motives behind these policies that bring to mind the ugly salaryman way of avoiding responsibility, and this infuriates some users. If only phrased differently, reactions could be better – “linking is basically up to the user, but the company can't take responsibility for what happens on an external website”.

Bringing in a culture of “free” links to an industry that began in the Meiji Period is difficult. It's easy to call them stupid, but I remember employees scurrying around, buying and selling favors within the company, to build consensus “just for the top page!”…

Kenta Echigoya ponders:

ところで「リンクポリシー」って、どうしてどこのウェブサイトも「自分のウェブサイトにリンクする際のお願い事」しか書いていないんだろう。自分の側が他者のウェブサイトにリンクする際の方針を謳っている所があってもいいような。

By the way, why are link policies always about inbound links? Don't you think there could be a place to announce your stance on linking to other websites as well?

Many bloggers highlighted the fact that the issue has been introduced to the English-speaking world, led by an article from the New York Times. Blogger takosaburou translated the article into Japanese.

Also referring to an article from Techcrunch that focused mainly on the HTML “tricks” that Nikkei used, engineer Kazuo Kashima posted a blog entry titled “Japanese being made fun of (?) because of Nikkei (?)“:

TechCrunchの記事は、「2001年頃にはそういうサイトもあったよねー(笑)」みたいな内容です。The NY Timesの記事はそれほど馬鹿にはしていませんが、日経の今回の措置が日本のネットユーザーから馬鹿にされている事実も少し取り上げています。

The TechCrunch article basically says “There were sites like this around 2001 (lol)”. The NY Times article isn't as strong in their ridicule, but it mentions that Japanese netizens are making fun of Nikkei's new policy.

Famidra asks if this is an action such an influential entity should be taking:

それをわざわざ、新聞社側の勝手な都合で特約的に禁止しているだけの話ですが、フェア・ユースという観点を考えれば、国民に多様な情報を発信しており、第4の権力とも言われるメディア界がこのような不当に重い制約を課しているのは少し疑問に感じられます。

This policy seems to be a special rule from the newspaper company to suit their needs. From the view point of fair use however, I am leery of the fact that mass media, the Fourth Power, is imposing such an unnecessarily strong restriction.

Some bloggers took this as an opportunity to step back and examine the desperate state of newspapers in general. Masahito Otsuka offers thoughtful observations:

こういう状況でわざわざ金を出しているのだから、自分がネットで知り得る以上の情報を新聞社に求めるのは当然のことだ。実際に日経の電子版を使ってみないとわからないことだが、正直言って電子版でそこまでの記事があるのかは疑問だ。しかし、そういう記事がなければ電子版も失敗するだろうし、いつかは紙の新聞も購読されなくなるだろう。

iPhoneで読めるとか便利に検索できるなどの機能も結構だが、自分が新聞社に求めているものはズバリ「ネットで知り得る以上の情報」である。

As someone opening up their wallet for a newspaper, it's natural to ask for more information than what's offered online. I haven't used the electronic version of Nikkei yet, but I doubt it provides articles with that kind of value. Without it however, the electronic version will fail and paper newspapers will keep fading away.

Search functionality and iPhone compatibility is nice and all, but what I ask from newspapers is this: “informational value that goes beyond what's available online”.

He goes on to propose a solution.

逆に、こうしたらどうだろう。ネットにはリンクや引用されてもいいような情報だけ公開して、紙の新聞の宣伝として最大限に使う。制限するより、むしろソーシャルネットワークなどを強力にからめて情報の流布を積極的に奨励する。そして重要で深い記事は徹底的にすべて紙で書く。

つまり「続きはWEBで」ではなく「続きは紙で」だ。

[…] NYTの統計を見ても、日本人はまだまだ紙の新聞を読んでいるのだ。今ならまだ間に合う。日本の新聞社、特に日経には、世界最強の取材力をつけて是非深い記事を書いていただきたい。ひとりの購読者として、これを切に願う。

How about this? Limit content online to links and quotable information, and use it to maximize promotion for paper newspapers. Pursue connectivity with social networks instead of restricting usage, and encourage the spread of information. Stick to publishing important, “deep” articles in the paper media only.

Instead of promoting “visit our website for more”, say “get the paper newspaper for more”.

[…] The statistics in the New York Times articles show that the Japanese are still avid readers of the paper newspaper. It's not too late. I'd like for Japanese newspapers, especially Nikkei, to bulk up on journalistic skills and write thought provoking articles. This is my dear hope, as one of your readers.

1 comment

  • I do not know if it would be a good way to stick to paper newspaper with regard to so called “deep” news, because everything might be more comfortable with ebook readers. Thus, you somehow rather have to establish a label which people are willing to pay / donate for.

    It could all be possible if micropayment became accepted one day. News pages could provide a row of links for micropayment just as many (includin globalvoicesonline.org) currently provide links to social bookmark services.

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