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Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

JAPAN TIMES BLOGROLL

Japan Economy News

Staff report

Japan Economy News is a blog that delivers just what it promises: almost daily news and analysis on Japan-related economic issues, from marketing to real estate to finance and politics. Founder, editor and writer Ken Worsley is a senior partner at a marketing and strategic consulting firm in Tokyo and describes how his online activities complement the day job.

Ken Worsley
Ken Worsley

What persuaded you that there was an audience for a Japanese economy blog?

Initially, I knew I had myself as an audience. There simply wasn't a site publishing what I wanted to read, so I figured there must have been a niche to fill. There was also no real place for people to exchange ideas, information and links to outside sources and data on Japan's economy, and so I wanted to try to fill that void. Certainly, there's no shortage of daily information on the economy, but I wanted to create a place where people who wanted to dig deeper could find the original sources of reports that were being quoted in the media, as well as have a space to publish translations of reports that might not make it into the media. But mostly, it's about creating a space where people can interact with one another and actually participate in the news.

How does the blog complement your day job?

In terms of research, I need to be on top of all the news and data anyway, so writing about it helps me formulate my own ideas as I keep an eye on the trends. Some articles are not necessarily directly related to my work, though they are interesting enough to be looked at and written about.

Japan Economy News is fast-moving with broad coverage — is it a solo effort?

It is a solo effort at the moment. That's not necessarily by intention, and it probably won't be that way forever. In terms of time, I've customized a lot of the programming to allow me to do things very quickly on various parts of the site.

What advice would you give someone hoping to make money by blogging?

Well, I suppose one has to find a niche, be willing to stick with it and be able to write about it well. Get in touch with other bloggers and use social network promotion vehicles ? allowing content sharing and voting. Engage the readers and get them talking, since user interaction is the power behind the new Web. Learn PHP. Rip apart your blogging software and see how it works, piece by piece. It probably has a lot of untapped power under the hood.

In terms of a blog, what is "power"?

I would say the site's ability to communicate and make itself easy for people to use.

Do you think user participation adds to the quality of information?

Absolutely! The economy itself is a social phenomenon — we might even be heading towards an economy 2.0. This approach to economic information and data is essential to my vision of combining reporting with interpretation and analysis from the readers. We often see multiple sources reporting the same story, but what can really set one website apart from another is the discussion. The news itself is an ongoing social dialog and the economy is a leaving, breathing, exciting entity. In my mind, it makes little sense to read news on the economy without discussing it as a group, since a look at the social implications and some legitimate anecdotes are part of what enrich the narrative of the economic system within which we live.

So how about some advice for Old Media?

Well, I have my opinions on the issue, just like everyone. I don't think all "Old Media" can easily be lumped together, and I don't think they have all been as flatfooted to catch up with Web 2.0 trends as some people would say. In general, we are now in an age when engaging users and readers is becoming a must. Why are sites such as Mixi, 2 Channel, Hatena and Yaplog more popular than those owned by the major news dailies in Japan? They offer a space for communication, content sharing and interactivity that the major media sites have been unable to provide, despite the fact that they entered the Web with established brand names to give them credibility. Thus far, they have either not been interested or not been able to leverage their brands into the sort of online communities that people can identify with and want to take part in, and that's costing them millions of page views per month.

Was there a point where you thought "this is working"?

It didn't take very long to start seeing a decent number of daily visitors. Traffic has been increasing each month, so it's hard to say that the site is anywhere near where I'd like it to be, or think it can go. I can't choose any one moment when I felt it was all working, but seeing over a hundred comments on a post is always a good sign — it means that people have found the site and they're looking to discuss the issue. All I can hope is to keep improving and making the site a better place for people to visit!


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