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.


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



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:


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:


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:



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.



[…] 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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