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July 7, 2010 / Richard Smart

Experimenting with online publishing

In previewing Tokyo Digital on July 4, Ourmani Nabiko said “If the boys on the barricades can just figure out how to get paid for their efforts, the revolution will be unstoppable.” Well, we may not be unstoppable, but we are putting our efforts into figuring out how to monetize journalism online. So here is our first madcap scheme:

Within around a week of the Upper House election in Japan that takes place on July 11, we are trying to produce a repository of all you need to know about the event; call it, if you are old school, a (rather small) book.
The idea is the fruit of conversations between me (Richard Smart), Rick Martin, Donald Eubank and Akiko Hayashi. As there are few publishers we know of in Japan taking the idea of e-books seriously, so we thought we would give one a go.

Problem is that, given time constraints, a lack of programming knowledge and the challenge of presenting something that feels new to match the new technology, we need quite a bit of help.


At our most optimistic, the aim is to produce a fluid essay on the Upper House elections that will be updated as we create new content and as new events unfold. The final result, after a one-month run of coverage, will be a one-stop source for all you want to know about the elections and their repercussions, presented in a way that reveals a multitude voices of those that have expertise or opinions on these events. The form will ideally allow the reader to quickly access the topics that are most important to them, in essence assembling the article that they want to read on the subject. Topics covered will include:

  • The players: Those in the spot light and behind the scenes
  • The background: Japanese political history in the 20th and 21st centuries
  • The run-up: How things come together
  • The consequences: The results and what they mean for the future
  • The experts: Interviews with political scientists, reporters, businessmen and others who can provide insights to the events
  • The judgment: Our final take on the elections
  • The discussion: What you have to say

Our call for help

The last couple of weeks have been slightly chaotic and, after the posting of this, are about to get a lot busier. This is a project we are doing to test new waters – if you are interested in diving in with us, we are looking for:
Programmers: The big one. We need your help to be able to build a platform to publish this material. If you have any experience with iPhone apps or have played around with producing something for the iPad and want to try out what is possible, give us a shout. Even if you know of the simplest drag and drop template that we can use to get anything online, we are listening.

Illustrators and photographers: Politician are boring. If you can illustrate them in a way that will give us a consistent look and feel across the publication, we want to hear from you. And if you have any shots of Mr. Kan that you are hiding in the closet, dust them of and send them our way. We are desperate for any visual accompaniment that we can legally use.

Videographers: Convince us that it will be easy to capture footage and embed it in our product, and we’ll give it a go.

Contributors: This project will only work if people are willing to contribute. If you are a specialist who has something that they want to say, but haven’t found somewhere to put it yet or want to put it in more than one place, we are happy to make room in the infinite space of the Internet. If you can write or at the least make decent lists and are knowledgeable about the subjects we are tackling or want to learn more, come along too.

Editors: If you can help make the copy look nice and read better, please do. If you see things that don’t make sense, please tell us.

Designers: If you want to help to make things look pretty, then we would appreciate your help.

Business people: We would like to sell this for a couple of hundred yen through the Apple Store if possible, and we would like to know of any problems/tips people have for putting stuff up on there.

Why we are doing this

This is just a trial run. If we can sort out a template that can be developed into something that is well organized, looks good, provides intellectual value and encourages intelligent conversation about both complex and fun topics, then we will be looking to publishing similar products and full-length books that can take more time to craft and – just as importantly – can start to pay all of those who help in producing them.
To reach us via Twitter send comments to @tokyodigital.

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