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Nikkei Business Publications on the evolution from advertisers to clients

Nikkei Business Publications is a 50 year old publisher based in Japan, that is now leading the charge in developing its media offering from content-for-advertisers to services-for-clients. Here, Yuko Tanaka introduces us to the company’s areas of expertise and explains how its offering has evolved in recent years.

 

“’Professional, Leading Edge and Visionary’ is the tag line of Nikkei,” says Yuko Tanaka, director of global business development for Nikkei Business Publications. “As Japan’s leading B2B media company, established in 1969, we have always dedicated ourselves to offering must know, leading edge information for working professionals.”

This focus on information, and in many respects a traditional B2B publisher’s mindset, has allowed Nikkei to adapt robustly to industry change. In 2018, the publication is taking traditional brand relationships to a new level.

“Our information is never a piece of string news. We delve deep into what is happening now in the industries that we serve, present annual analysis and shed light on future developments. Neither are we just a media company that offers quality information to our audience. We also offer the best marketing services to our client companies both inside and outside of Japan. In other words, we solve both the problems that our audience and our client companies face today.” 

“Nikkei began as a magazine publisher. Later we also started publishing books, operating websites and posting seminars and expos as well as offering research and consulting services. Today we publish 40 magazines and 500 books every year. We operate 14 websites and we host 1000s of seminars and expos on different subjects. But these are no longer standalone businesses.”

“From an audience perspective, we reach eight million business people who choose to read our magazines, our books and websites on a day-to-day basis while attending our events, for face-to-face media opportunities with their peers in the industry. When I say eight milion this isn’t just any eight million, because we know who, of which company and living where is interested in what, is reading our content and taking part in our events. From a client perspective, we offer marketing services that mix and match our media and events for the best outcome for them.”

Through a process of build and scrap, the company has developed a sixth sense for discovering the types of content and product offerings that will appeal to its audiences. With technology now playing a big part in every industry sector, Nikkei’s approach to reporting on the IT trends of the day is emblematic of this streamlining.

“Our main target sectors are business, technology and lifestyle in which we presently publish 38 titles reaching two million subscribers. We have actually launched over 110 new magazines and newsletters to date, since our inception. While discontinuing close to 70 of those, our business has always been offering the best and the most needed information to our audience and to our client companies. We started our first website in 1995 and have since then gone through the same process of scrap and build to today focussing on 14 sites.”

“This year we have actually made a bold step with our digital offering, through the introduction of a new website under name of Nikkei Business xTech. This brings together all of our magazines and websites related to IT, manufacturing and construction. The reason for this was because we saw a trend where the walls between IT, manufacturing and construction were starting to disappear and topics such as AI or IT were no longer a subject of interest just for the traditional IT professional. Digital innovation has been happening across a variety of industries, including manufacturing and construction, and business execs across all sectors need to understand it.”

“xTech is designed to offer information on the latest technologies that cross between industry sectors in case studies of business innovations achieved through the adoptions of such technologies. At the same time we dig deep into what is happening on the front lines of each industry. I believe only Nikkei business publications could have done this because we have 400 in-house journalists, each following their expert fields.” 

 

Yuko Tanaka ()

 

As unique an approach as the publisher provides to modern media, some central themes currently running throughout the wider industry remain key. Namely, how to monetise content in an increasingly digital world in which digital advertising is being monopolised by the likes of Facebook and Google.

“Given the landslide of advertising money these days, we decided that we should start charging for the quality content we offer. Of course, there are still articles that can be read free of charge as we still ask for our audience to share their personal information with us. But there are also articles that are behind our paywall and can only be read by those who pay an annual subscription of US$270 per year. This doesn’t sound like much, but it is if you have never had to pay anything and all of a sudden you do.” 

“Presently there are over 20,000 people paying this money and the number is increasing. This past April we also implemented the same strategy on our marketing portfolio magazines and websites, and the new brand Nikkei xTrend is also doing very well.” 

Where Tanaka presents the company’s approach to generating brand revenue, the offering begins to look particularly interesting.

“Another digital challenge that we currently face is what Nikkei calls Joint Media. Joint means that we are using our capabilities to produce quality content and produce websites on behalf of our clients companies – a concept similar to what is called old media, but still different.”

“What is different from the old media approach is that the name of the sponsoring companies do not appear on the website at all. For example, Panasonic is one such hidden sponsor, but their objective is not to promote their own devices, but to unveil how advanced consumer electronic products could change our future lives and society. Asahi breweries are actually one of the biggest beer makers in Japan, another sponsor – but they are not trying to sell beer – instead to convey the joy and fun of drinking to younger generations who don’t really drink as much as we used to.”

“There are currently about 10 such joint media projects, which can be in both English and Japanese, and all are very popular. The sponsors want to keep funding them even though their names do not show at all.”

Of course as Tanaka stresses, quality business information has always been at the forefront of Nikkei’s dedicated B2B offering, and that still rings true today. It’s just that the professional work previously undertaken by journalists and editors is now being packaged in a different way, as content is produced directly for the clients as company services. 

“Additionally we have Nikkei BP Intelligence, which is the research analysis and consulting division of Nikkei Business Publications. We launched this business in 2010 and at that time it was a very small local experiment that just a few people in the company thought that it might be fun to work on. But its presence has been increasing rapidly in recent years, achieving 20-30% year on year growth in terms of revenue. We now have 9 research institutes within the company, each focusing on a different industry sector such as management, marketing, medicine, communications, etc.”

“There are presently 18 researchers altogether and they have solved hundreds of challenges brought to them by their client companies. For example, some client companies wanted advice on how to create a new business or how to advance in different markets. Others wanted us to come up with their long-term company vision or find business partners. 90% of such challenges and problems are brought to us from the private sector, but even the government and the administrative organisations of Japan come to us for advice.”

“The output differs from case to case. In some cases we will produce a report for a client, in other cases we will host events or create websites. We also hold workshops to bring together competitors in the same industry to work together for the sake of the industry and publish books.”

“There are other research institutes in Japan such as the Mitsubishi Research Institute or the Nomura, but what makes us different? Because of the magazines and websites that we have there are many in the company that have experienced the Chief Editor post. As chief editor they know the industry inside out and they have very strong networks particularly with the top management level people. And even when they leave the post of chief editor people remember them and they keep coming back to them for advice. This is how the Nikkei BP Intelligence group works and this is our strength and what makes us different from the others.” 

For Tanaka and Nikkei, the day-to-day role of the publisher has not changed beyond recognition since its creation in 1969, it’s just that now the business models placed around the content, and the way it thinks about its brand relationships, have evolved to meet the demands of the modern media industry. 

“Were you to look at our workflow, you might think all this is just a workflow for producing a magazine or a website. But at the same time it is also the workflow for our research and consulting services. When a project is brought to us, we start from qualitative and quantitative research, we then go out and interview people and then analyse the information gathered, to build a strategy which we then communicate and verify the outcome. Our research is not a desktop research, it is real life research which can be done because all our background is in media.”

“The research and consulting business is a long term project that will sometimes require one or maybe two years for a proposal to be turned into real money, however profitability rate is very high. In the future, we wish to take Nikkei Business Intelligence global and will look to partner outside of Japan, especially in China.”

You can download Yuko Tanaka's presentation slides here.

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