Site: Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Inc. (Nikkei)
Electronic Media Bureau (EMB)
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-66, Japan
Date Visited: 23 March 1998
WTEC Attendess: M. Shamos (report author), T. Ager, L. Goldberg
Nikkei has been a financial newspaper company for 122 years. It is famousaround the world for the Nikkei Average of leading Japanese stocks and isroughly comparable to Reuters or Dow-Jones. Its daily newspaper, Nihon KeizaiShimbun, is the world's largest financial daily, with a circulation of threemillion. It publishes four other newspapers, owns Nikkei Satellite News TVTokyo and five other television companies, produces books and magazines, andsponsors large-scale cultural events.
The company views itself as a reporting conglomerate with 1,400 reportersgenerating economic, business and financial stories that are stored and thendisseminated through both print and electronic media. Having the firstcomputerized daily newspaper in Japan, Nikkei owns the largest and oldestfull-text database of Japanese news stories, complete since 1985 with somedating back to 1975. It has set a goal of increasing its profit from electronicsources to 20% within the next several years. Company managers believe thatwith low-cost dissemination methods such as the Internet, profit rather thanrevenue is the appropriate measure of success.
Nikkei employs 13 people directly involved in research and development ininformation systems and retrieval. Thirty more are employed in affiliatedcompanies.
Mr. Habara explained that Nikkei has the largest electronic informationsales of any Japanese company by virtue of its huge historical databasecomprising over 1.3 million stories. Its in-house ANNECS composing system wasinaugurated in 1972 and forms the basis for capturing its stories in electronicform. It is used in various stages of production and manages the 14 differenteditions of the paper that are produced daily. Reporters transmit their storiesdirectly into PLES, a paperless editing system, by modem over telephone lines,if necessary, or through the Internet. The system produces voice output forproofreading, allowing verification of articles at high speed. The voicecomponent was provided by NTT. The company is noted for the speed with whichnews stories that may possibly affect market prices can be transmitted to itscustomers, in some cases within a few minutes.
English materials are handled by NETS, a proprietary system for receivingand disbursing material in the Roman alphabet. Nikkei's software systems arespecified by Nikkei but built by outside contractors, including IBM.
Mr. Eto gave an overview of the company's electronic businesses. In additionto text databases, Nikkei has maintained a numerical database business foralmost 30 years, selling corporate financial and stock price informationthrough a service known as NEEDS. QUICK-IS provides data for analysis inpersonal computer environments. The services Nikkei Telecom 21, Nikkei Telecom,Nikkei Net and Nikkei Online offer news stories and summaries electronically inEnglish and Japanese.
Telecom 21 provides full-text search in Japanese and English. Its fees aredesigned to promote large-scale usage. The basic subscription rate is ¥8,000per month for a single user ($60 per month as of March 31, 1998). This goesdown to ¥500 per month for each user ID over one hundred. With the basicsubscription, headline reading is free, stories can be retrieved for ¥20 each($0.16). A search hit on a headline costs ¥5 ($0.04). A variety of other usageplans are offered. Nikkei's Web site experiences ten million hits per day,three million accesses and over a hundred thousand billable transactions,making it the second most active Internet site in Japan. Chinese languagecapability has been considered but is not presently regarded as a profitablebusiness opportunity.
Approximately 1,000 stories per day are added to the database by Nikkeireporters. At 2:00 a.m., the stories in the 14th and last edition of thenewspaper (by now corrected, if necessary) are sent to the archive, which isstored on an IBM 3090 mainframe computer. No summarization or abstracting isperformed. Nikkei points out that these operations are unnecessary because thestories are usually short and their editorial style is such that the leadsentence serves as an abstract. Dow Jones supplies 1,500 stories per day toNikkei under a cooperative arrangement by which about 10% of the items aretranslated into Japanese, published by Nikkei and added to the electronicdatabase. Numerous articles from other Asian newspapers such as the StraitsTimes (Singapore) and the Bangkok Post, as well as different Japanesenewspapers, are added to the database every week.
Nikkei's corporate database includes information on over 200,000 Japanesecorporations and over 18,000 other Asian companies.
In 1997, Nikkei, Mitsui and America Online (AOL) began a joint venture underwhich Nikkei became the largest supplier of information to AOL in Japan. Nikkeioffers its services in tiered levels designed to fit the budgets of itscustomers. At the bottom level, AOL subscribers can expect to pay ¥3000-5000per month. The next higher level is Telecom, and the highest level of numericaldata is QUICK, which is now saturated.
The WTEC group was given a tour of Nikkei's demonstration facility, where wewere shown full-text retrieval via AOL. (Full text is available, but only forselected stories.) Telecom 21 offers retrieval of text with motion pictures andsound in English and Japanese. Nikkei also make available other text databasesunder license from outside publishers. Collective search is possible. Storiesof interest to a particular customer are downloaded to his PC each week so thatlocal searching can be performed to reduce the load on the mainframessupporting the online service.
Nikkei's view of its databases is entirely proprietary. They are arevenue-producing asset of the company and are made available to others onlyfor a fee through Nikkei services and interface software.