Looking Ahead

The slump in the publishing industry is continuing. Even large publishing companies have suffered startling declines of 30%-50% over the last few years, and the trend has definitely not ended. Companies are being pressed to make a response. The sudden economic slowdown following the subprime loan problem has added fuel to the fire. Advertising revenue in particular has fallen dramatically, resulting in an avalanche of bankruptcies and business withdrawals, and this is having ripple effects on agency and bookstore management. The situation is much worse than in the electric appliance industry.

I got the Phile-web started in 1999. At that time, personal computers were changing dramatically following the appearance of Windows 95, and I could see, with a sense of thrill, that the world was heading for a huge transformation. More than anything else, I sensed that the impact on the magazine and newspaper industries was going to be massive. I had a strong feeling that both of them were going to be exterminated.

Halley's comet had approached Japan in February 1986. In the 1990s the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan released photos of that event on the Internet. I had been fascinated by celestial bodies and natural science since my schoolboy days, so I could not resist downloading a photo of Halley's comet from the observatory's website, printing it out on B5 sheets of paper, and distributing them in our company. At that time, I really felt the wonder of the Internet, which had been made possible by Windows 95.

In the autumn of 1999 there was a party at the Palace Hotel for Internet business circles, and I was able to have discussions with the frontrunners of the time. When I heard the opinion that a homepage is not complete without a bulletin board, though, I wasn't convinced. Although bulletin boards might be good places for people to air their views, anonymous messages also get posted. Well, that's the Web, they replied.

I did not employ a bulletin board on the Phile-web. At the same time, I realized that personal information was going to become a big problem, so I concluded a contract with a law office. And I also discarded the idea of a homepage. In keeping with our corporate motto of contributing to the development of the industry, the Phile-web got off to a full-fledged start in June 2000 as a portal site of the industry.

The magazines Senka 21, AV Review, and the quarterly Audio Accessory, targeted at the audiovisual industry and consumers, played a central role at that time, and every day all of our editors were busy writing news articles about products and topics relating to the industry. Depending on the content, we renewed the pages daily, weekly, or monthly and added new contents one after the other.

My stock saying at that time was "Only publishing companies with a strong presence on the Web will survive." Fortunately, because the concept was clear-cut, the Phile-web grew steadily, and today it has developed into a massive site with more than 12 million page views a month, over 300 million hits, and over 1 million resident AV equipment fans.

At the beginning of 2007 I made all of the magazines issued by our company full color, as they are today, thereby bringing them into sync with the orientation of the Web generation. We couldn't go on issuing black-and-white magazines in an age in which the Web was all color. So we established a strong cooperative setup with Toppan Printing Co., with whom we had built trustworthy relations extending over four decades, and realized the change. This strategy of "strong Web, strong magazines" is giving rise to many secondary effects as well, including the next-generation shift to electronic magazines.

I believe that we should see everything from tomorrow in a cycle of 3-5-7-10 years. The slump in the publishing industry that I mentioned at the beginning of this article occurred because companies did not see what was coming in 10 years' time. It's too late trying to frantically patch together a response now. Some companies will survive, while others will be naturally weeded out. But contents will last forever.