Reporting on the size of the digital content industry in Japan, an AP news feed on AOL news indicates that the digital content market size in Japan has grew to 2.694 trillion yen in 2007, just under 3.4 per cent growth.

The figures come as the Digital Content Association of Japan released their Digital Content White Paper 2008, which will interest readers of Japanese, on 1 September.

According to the association’s Press Release (PDF file in Japanese), 2007 saw visual content emerge with a clear margin as the largest contributor to digital content sales, reaching 30 per cent of total sale (540.8 billion yen, an increase of 8.7 per cent). Music was down to 26 per cent of the total, showing a negligible decrease in sales to 596.5 billion yen (12.5 billion yen down from the previons year). Game software also experienced a small decrease to total 767.7 billion yen, while digital publishing sales increased by over 10 per cent to reach 789.7 billion yen.

While most digital content was still predominantly sold as packaged media (66 per cent of total), consumption through mobile phones increased to reach 21.6 per cent of the total, ahead of online sales 11.6 per cent.

Meanwhile, the whole (media) content market size stood at 13.8 trillion yen, an ever so slight increase on 2006 of 0.3 per cent. 5.8 trillion of this was in publishing, 4.84 trillion in visual content, 1.86 trillion in music and 1.29 trillion in games. With regards to distribution medium, 48.6 per cent were packaged goods, 29.2 per cent via broadcasting, 12.8  per cent through location-based distribution (cinemas, game arcades, concerts), 5 per cent online, and 4.3 per cent via mobile.

Not surprisingly, packaged media has been steadily decreasing over the past 5 years as online and mobile sales continue to grow.

The Japan International Contents Festival gets underway at the end of this month running from 30 September through 28 October.

While more than 10 days shorter than last year’s ‘festa’, CoFesta 2008 still brings together individual markets and festivals across games, animation, characters, broadcast, film, and music content.

Check out the English version of CoFesta’s website.

With a touch of nostalgia I read the Wireless Watch Japan entry on mobile internet in Japan. The WWJ piece was critiquing an article in TechCrunch by on the success of mobile internet in Japan, particularly NTT Docomo’s i-mode.

The WWJ editors (rightly) point out that the success of mobile internet in Japan was mostly down to technological and business model innovation rather than cultural specificity in the Japanese market.

The WWJ editors are very dismissive of the Japan-specific story, and understandably so. This line has been carried by most analysts in the West and was long used as a reason why i-mode would never work outside of Japan. Regarding i-mode’s success,  they are spot on in identifying the importance of the relationships between handset manufacturer, operator, and content provider.

plus8star gives a good list of Japan firsts that help debunk the “only in Japan” approach used to dismiss much Japanese innovation:

  • Mobile email -1999
  • Camera phones and TFT colour screens – 2000
  • Commercial 3G  -2001
  • QR code reader – 2002
  • A big market for ringtones and song downloads (over 160 billion yen in 2005 according to Digital Content Association of Japan)

In a slightly more academic look at the success, this book chapter, Out of the Japanese Incubator (free download from ANU EPress) suggests a generalised 6 point model to the success of the platform.

  1. Collaborative business network between operators and manufacturers.
  2. Content aggregation.
  3. Micropayment mechanism.
  4. Independent content providers.
  5. Freedom of access outside aggregated content.
  6. Increased connectivity that results from these factors.

The book chapter also argues that rather than cultural specificity, the biggest barriers to exporting the i-mode model are likely to be 1) lack of the collaborative relationship between handset manufacturer and operator, 2) tendency for operators to enter exclusive arrangements with major content providers, and 3) the popularity of prepaid mobile phones outside of Japan.

So while western journalists and analysts got most fired up (and dismissive) about Japanese mobile telephony around 2001, Japan is still a resounding hotbed of innovation that – often years later – gets picked up in other markets. Leaving Tokyo again in 2007, I suffered major withdrawal symptoms after giving up the RFID contactless stored value card built into my phone. I didn’t know how I would be getting on trains or making payments at convenience stores.

But then again, I was coming to Canberra. I wouldn’t be using trains. Or convenience stores.

With the Tokyo Games Show over, the Japan Animation Contents Meeting (JAM2007) concluding on Sunday 7th and ASIAGRAPH 2007 starting on the 11th, the content-related trade shows and festivals continue to roll as part of CoFesta in Tokyo, supported by the Ministry for Economy Trade and Investment (METI) and various industry bodies.

CoFesta continues with:

among others.

According to CoFesta site,

The Japan International Contents Festival (CoFesta) is one of the world’s largest contents festivals. Various events related to the contents industry, such as games, anime, manga (comics)/characters, broadcasting, music and films, are all held in Japan in autumn. CoFesta brings all these events together. CoFesta is for all kinds of contents emerging from Japan to influence each other and to be linked, to create new possibilities while also maintaining connections with the media technology industry for the distribution of contents, and to make a broad appeal to overseas.