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Monday, Sep. 5, 2011

EDITORIAL

World's biggest blog obsession

Internet users in Japan spend more time reading blogs than any other country in the world, according to a recent study from comScore, a research company measuring the digital world. The average Japanese user spent 62.6 minutes reading blogs during June of this year, when the survey was conducted.

That was far more than second-place South Korea with an average of 49.6 minutes and third-place Poland with 47.7 minutes. Japanese may appear busy and overworked, but they manage to squeeze in a lot of blog time.

The survey also found that 80 percent of Japan's entire Internet population, 59 million people, visited a blog site sometime during June. More startling perhaps is that these figures do not even include blog readers from Internet cafes, mobile phones or PDAs; they are only for home and work computers. With those other sources included, the blogging numbers would be even higher.

Japan is not alone among Asian countries in its blog obsession. Of the top 10 countries for blog time, six were from Asia: Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan. The reasons for reading blogs are as varied as readers' interests, but the chance to interact anonymously at a safe distance must rank near the top.

Blogs offer a sense of community, long important in Asian cultures, by allowing anyone into ongoing discussions. They also offer the chance to rant or rave on highly specialized topics.

In the 15 or so years since their inception, blogs have become so varied that the term itself covers as much diversity as the term "novel" or "film." Blogs run the gamut from political commentary to diaries of a pet, photos of desserts, complaints about work, and exchanges about scientific research.

Whatever their focus, blogs allow a degree of self-expression and exchange unimaginable even a few years ago. They supplement traditional media and text formats like newspapers, magazines, journals or books, by expanding and detailing important, and sometimes not-so-important parts of life. Their influence and effect have expanded tremendously.

Blogs are an important means for Japanese to make sense of their lives and the world. The good side of blogs' popularity is that reading is clearly just as important as ever. The downside is that blogs lack immediacy and face-to-face interaction.

Are blogs a powerful enough force to change Japan or are they just a way to kill time?

Time will tell, but you may have to read a blog to find the answer.



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