Japanese social network Mixi (TYO:2121) just launched a new photo service named Nohana (meaning ‘wild flowers’ in Japanese) targeting parents with small children. This move makes a lot of sense considering that the early users of the social network, which launched way back in 2000, are now a little older and likely to have children of their own.
The app is surprisingly simple and is completely separate from Mixi proper. After signing up, you can invite your family members by entering their phone numbers. Once this is done, you can upload or take photos with the iOS app  and then every month users (in Japan) can receive a free (90 yen shipping fee not included) printed photo book. The first book of each month is always free, however each additional book costs 525 yen and there is free shipping for orders above 1,050 yen (about $11).
Nohana is Mixi’s answer to our modern habit of frequent photo-taking, but never having enough time to organize and print them. With this solution, families can share their photos with grandparents or other relatives who may live far away.
Mixi’s official total monthly active users was 14 million as of September 2012, with about 8.6 million of those on smartphones (see interactive chart below). And the most active users on the social network are people in the 20 to 24 demographic accounting for almost 30% of the total users. That’s followed by users ages 25 to 29 at 20%, and 30 to 35 at 14%. Ostensibly many users from these segments should benefit greatly from a service like Nohana.
Mixi currently runs two major business: its social network, plus the online job posting site, Find Job. The company recently shut down its short-lived subscription fashion commerce, Petite Jete, which was targeting young female users. Under what was likely the correct assumption that young female struggled to find casual work fashion, the company did succeed in gaining over a million users. However, the business was not as big as they expected.
In Japan, the photo book market is getting pretty crowded with competitors from Fujifilm and startups like Tolot. Lets stay tuned to see if this new venture, Nohana, will go as they hope — or suffer the same sad fate as Petite Jete.
An Android version is coming later this spring ↩