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Population: 127 million
Internet penetration: 93%
17th June 2024

The Japanese media scene is characterised by lively competition between public and commercial broadcasters and an influential newspaper sector where some dailies still sell millions of print copies. Online news is mainly accessed via free portals and aggregators such as Yahoo! and Line News. Social media use tends to be lower than in other countries, with YouTube the dominant video network.

Japan's historically high newspaper circulation continued to decline to a total of 28.5 million in March 2023, down by 7.31% from the previous year. With the Japanese yen at weak levels, prices of paper and ink made from mostly imported materials have hit the sector hard. Five national dailies, four of which still have seven-digit print circulation, are struggling to develop digital business models fast enough to make up for shrinking print revenues. One exception is Nikkei (Japan Economic Daily), which recently reached 1 million digital subscribers and has been pushing hard into the corporate sector as well as chasing the next generation of readers. A new premium service (Nikkei Prime) includes specialist content on technology, automobiles, and green business transformation. Minutes by Nikkei, launched in November 2023, is a product aimed at briefing young readers in a concise way. The leading business publisher, which also owns the Financial Times, now has the fifth largest digital subscriber base in the world and the largest in non-English media. By contrast, another early adopter, Asahi Shimbun, has achieved only around 300,000 digital subscribers over a similar time period. Conservative national daily Yomiuri, which at 6 million has the largest print circulation, has started to invest more in digital development while maintaining its strategy of only allowing digital access to print subscribers.

Japan’s competitive national and local broadcasters are also facing the impact of changing audience viewing habits. As of March 2023, more than half of households (52.7%) subscribe to at least one TV streaming service, and the majority use YouTube.1 Tver, a free catch-up (VOD) service operated by the main commercial broadcasters, is increasing its viewing figures but is not yet consistently profitable.2 The scope and remit of public broadcaster in the digital age has also been discussed, with amendments to the Broadcasting Act tabled in March 2023 to change NHK's internet remit, currently defined as ‘complementary business to broadcasting’, to ‘essential business’. This will now cover streaming and catch-up TV, though savings will be needed as the receiving fee was cut by 10% from 2023. However, concerns about the ‘crowding out’ of commercial media persist, with new services still requiring ‘public interest tests’.

NHK has often been the first in Japan to adopt new technologies and introduced an AI newsreader back in 2018, an animated character named 'News Yomiko', designed by a manga artist. Now several commercial broadcasters have followed suit, hoping to cut production costs. Nikkei has also been using AI to help summarise corporate results, but deeper analysis is still done by humans.

Following the massive earthquake on New Year's Day in north-western Japan a number of false claims went viral on social media. These included suspicious rescue requests from places that do not exist and suggestions that the earthquake was man-made, prompting the government to issue a request to the main online platforms to take appropriate action. LINE Yahoo, the owner of Yahoo! News, which over half (53%) cite as their main source of online news, deleted over 1,800 posts mainly related to the earthquake. To meet the increasing challenge of disinformation, the news media, advertising agencies, and platform companies in Japan have jointly developed a technology to identify and verify the source of content as well as other information related to its credibility, using a digital watermark.3 The Originator Profile Collaborative Innovation Partnership aims to be in use by 2025.

Yahoo! News came under the spotlight in September 2023 when Japan’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) warned that it might be in breach of Anti-Monopoly Law if rates paid for using publisher articles were too low. It urged Yahoo!, along with other news portals, to ‘disclose as much information as possible’ about how licence fees and advertising arrangements are decided, to enable publishers and others to review whether they are paid fairly. The report also published their own research findings which showed that, on average, publishers receive 124 yen (less than US$1) per 1,000 page views (PVs), less than a quarter (24%) of the ad revenue earned by the portals. The regulator suggested there should be proper negotiation between the two parties.

Yasuomi Sawa
Journalist and Professor of Journalism, Waseda University
Reiko Saisho
NHK, Broadcasting Culture Research Institute

Changing media

In Japan's ageing society, where over-65s make up almost a third (29%) of the population, older people still cling to TV and print, but younger groups mainly get news from online aggregators and social and video networks, such as YouTube and Line.

Pay for online news


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Trust in news overall



Overall trust levels remain stable, while the scores for individual news brands declined by between 2 and 6 percentage points. Major media outlets have been posed tough questions as to why it took so long to investigate long-swirling rumours of large-scale sexual abuse of male stars by the late idol impresario Johnny Kitagawa. It took an investigation by a non-Japanese media company, the BBC, to force the matter into the open.

RSF World Press Freedom Index


Score 62.12

Measure of press freedom from NGO Reporters Without Borders based on expert assessment. More at


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