Japanese press see future in web and mobile

One of the world's biggest newspapers — Japan-based Asahi Shinbun — believes that mobile phones and membership schemes could offer salvation for newspapers.

According to executive Takashi Ishioka — Japan has a population of 127 million and some 49 million households, of which 107 per cent subscribe to a newspaper.

Some 94 per cent have their news-paper home delivered.

The Asahi Shinbun has a daily circulation of eight million for its morning edition and four million in the evening and 24 local TV stations employing a total of 3,000 journalists.

It launched its website Asahi.com in 1995 and launched a mobile phone news site in 1999.

He said the mobile phone version of the newspaper is used to target younger readers and that since 1999 some 21,000 had subscribed to the print edition via their mobile phones.

In October 2004, the paper launched the Aspara Club membership scheme which has different levels of benefits: new subscribers are white members, subscribers of under a year are yellow and subscribers of a year or more's standing are green.

The club is free and has so far attracted one million members.

Members qualify for extra editorial services, special offers and free attendance at events.

The newspaper awards points to members who fill out its questionnaires and these qualify them for presents.

The newspaper derives commercial benefits from knowing more about its readers and their spending habits.

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