During the early years of the twenty-first century the Japanese newspaper publishing industry seemed to be putting up successful resistance to digital encroachments; until 2008 the number of subscriptions per household was still above one. This success was reliant on a layered and highly-successful system of distribution and sales which involved dedicated networks of retail and delivery businesses, known as hanbaiten. However, these unique systems, put in place to support the high readerships of the newspapers’ heyday, are now working against newspapers as they move away from being producers of a ‘dead-tree’ paper product to a new form appropriate for a world of digital consumption. This paper reviews some of the structures that once made the newspapers sales industry in Japan so mighty yet have proven difficult to discard, illustrating how a well-integrated, reliable and (usually) smooth-functioning system can ossify and make it difficult to make adjustments to a changing informational environment.
Koga-Browes, S. P. (2022). The ‘home delivery’ newspaper sales system as an impediment to digitalisation in Japan. Ritsumeikan Annual Review of International Studies, 21, 29–56.