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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Balanced news key for Yahoo Japan


Staff writer

While Yahoo Japan's news service has grown bigger and more powerful with the rise of the Internet, it has become tougher for the media to broadcast news with important value to its audience, said Michihiro Okumura, who leads a team that selects Yahoo Japan's news topics for its front page.

"I feel the media are expected to be something that send a warning to society. But when I look at the access ranking (of news stories), that idea is forgotten. Working in Internet media, I strongly feel that significant things are not reaching people," Okumura, a former Yomiuri Shimbun reporter, said Monday at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo.

Okumura pointed out that stories on entertainment and sports tend to attract readers, saying that 30 percent of news accessed in May was entertainment-related.

Yahoo Japan's top Web page shows eight different headlines, which are selected by categories and constantly change. The stories are selected by 20 editors, including Okumura, most of whom have worked as professional journalists.

He said that when the Republic of Kosovo became independent in February 2008, the news was hardly read. The most-read story that day was about a Japanese comedian winning a comedy contest, a story which attracted 50 times more views than the news of Kosovo.

"We say Kosovo's independence did not take place for the readers of Yahoo News," Okumura said.

He also said it is important for the people who select new topics to balance readers' needs, such as entertainment and sports news, and news value. He said while they could easily be tempted to select popular stories that are likely to attract readers, and thus improve the company's profit, they need to judge the news value and consider what stories society needs to read about.

According to Okumura, Yahoo News, which was launched in 1996, gets about 3.76 billion page views and 50 million unique users a month. The news site currently receives about 3,500 news stories a day from around 100 media organizations.



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