Japan’s bloggers show us the future

Blogging and participation in social media services is growing more popular with each passing month, and nowhere more so than in Japan. In fact, when it comes to the popularity of web 2.0, Japan is a world leader. According to Technorati, Japanese is now the commonest language in the blogosphere at 37%, and is in the top five countries in the world for the number of blogs  – an amazing achievement if you think of the relative size of the country compared to, say, the US. As well as being amongst the most prolific writers, the Japanese are the most avid blog readers, with 74% of people regularly reading blogs. But all that pales in comparison to the numbers participating in social networking sites.

A number of popular services are now available in Japanese, including MySpace, but by far the most popular is Mixi. Boasting over 14 million users and one million interest communities, the popularity of Mixi is quite extraordinary. Mixi clocks up 10 billion page views a month. The mobile version is even more popular: In January 2007, Mixi Mobile recorded 100 million page views in a single day! Another mobile-only service, Mobagetown, gets around 15 billion page views a month.

The popularity of web 2.0 in Japan is driven by the country’s highly developed telecoms infrastructure – particularly for mobile devices – which is several years ahead of the US and Europe. High-speed fibre internet connections are common, with speeds of 100mbps and above, and the use of web services on mobile devices is extremely popular. In technology terms, where Japan leads, the world follows and it seems certain that the trends seen in Japan will be repeated globally as wide-area social networking becomes more an integral feature of our culture.

Yet in spite of this strong predicted growth, many companies have been slow to pick up on the trend – clinging to outdated methods and increasingly ineffective communication channels to promote themselves. I was chatting to an editor of a well-known electronics magazine the other day, and he was laughing about a PR company that still sends him paper press releases with a printed photograph. The online delivery of content is a fact of life now and, as the Japanese experience shows us very clearly, certain to become ever-more important in coming years.

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