The Reading Room

Yomiuri Shimbun

One of Japan’s five national newspapers, the Yomiuri Shimbun is in fact the biggest selling in the world at around 10 million copies a day.

The conservative and centre-right newspaper founded in 1874, is part of a trend in Japan that has, like the western world, seen newspaper ad revenue decline dramatically during the recession but, unlike in Europe or America, subscriptions have stayed fairly strong. This is due to the country’s vast home distribution network which supports the ingrained habit of Japanese adults picking up the morning paper from their mailbox to catch up on what has been happening.

Like most of Japan’s papers, there is an abundance of columns of type in the Yomiuri Shimbun, not too much in the way of pictures, and the same approach mirrored in the website version.

A few months ago University of Tokyo professor Hayashi Kaori opined on that although the success of the Yomiuri Shimbun and its ilk was partly due to the Japanese fondness for printed reading matter of all kinds, this was unlikely to last. He said his students, indicative of a whole younger generation, were more interested in what was online and on their smartphones. Younger people were also becoming less inclined to work as delivery agents, or paperboys, and yet newspaper owners in Japan seem unprepared for a digital switch that may alienate their extensive home delivery army, he concluded.

But at least Yomiuri Shimbun has had a website since 1995 and since June 2010 Yomiuri Shimbun subscribers have been able to access content – articles, sports, even novels – with the application Yorimoba. So maybe it will continue its global dominance. After all, physical paper sales are falling in the west, so there is no immediate reason why the Yomiuri Shimbun should lose its crown as the world’s number one.

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