Japan can be a great market for digital content, as the consumers in this country are very accustomed to paying for it. Our readers may recall our previous article about how there is a Japanese culture of paying for newsletters. One startup here in Japan is again proving there is opportunity in this space, with the firm belief that consumers will pay for good content. The platform is called Cakes, and the folks behind this mobile reading app are serving up some tasty stories to Japanese readers. We recently had a chance to briefly speak with Jun Haranaga, the CTO at Piece of Cake, the company behind the content platform, and he told us a little more about what they’re up to.
Cakes launched back in June of 2012, and currently there are over 180 writers/creators on the site, with more than 2,500 posted to date. Back in April, the company nabbed three hundred million yen from two venture capital firms in Japan.
In the future, the online media and traditional offline media will merge. This change is taking place already.
Typical users of Cakes are of the bookworm variety, paying a weekly fee of 150 yen ($1.50) to read all content available on the site. Some creators are well-known manga artists or novelists, and many of the up-and-coming creators have been carefully selected by Cakes. Cakes tries to provide the experience of being at a bookstore in an online environment, making lots of inspiring content available so you can always find something interesting on your book shelf.
Haranara explains the company’s take on the future of online media:
We think that the ultimate format of digital content is not ePublication, but rather the web. In the future, the online media and traditional offline media will merge. This change is taking place already. When this happens, we will see lots of ups and downs for all content and all players. We want to help those who write, and focus on building a cutting edge media platform.
For Cakes, writers, creators, and publishers are all potential clients, as these people all seek ways to market and monetize their content. One such initiative is the Million Seller Project, where the Japanese entrepreneur and internet tycoon Horie Takafumi began a column on Cakes. Those posts were put into a book, which was subsequently released by major publisher Diamond.
What was interesting about this new sort of ecosystem is that the book’s revenue was distributed to all involved parties, including editors and writers. Another book published in this way is called The Most Powerful Learning is Economics which so far has sold 250,000 copies.
Japan can be proud of its content and culture
Interestingly, Cakes sees potential for its business beyond Japan, and has set up offices in Singapore and Vietnam. Haranaga and his engineers are working from Singapore, and other development projects are in progress in Vietnam as well. He explains:
One of the things that Japan can be proud of its content and culture. So in the future, we definitely plan to distribute these things outside of Japan. Singapore is the hub of Asia, and we found that there are excellent engineers in Vietnam after we held an app development competition there. By establishing bases in other parts of Asia, we believe we can accelerate the development process for our platform.
Cakes released its iPhone app back in May of this year, and an Android version will be released very soon. The company is also working on its iPad app, which is expected to be released sometime between summer or fall.
Premium online content has been tried many times before, but it still struggles at times and is in need of further experimentation. There is certainly lots to learn from Japanese content ventures like Cakes, MaguMagu, or Magalry, a newsletter service operated by GREE. It will be interesting to see how Cakes will fare beyond its home country, so stay tuned to find out!