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YAHOO JAPAN

Yahoo Japan: Same name, very different company

by Minoru Matsutani

Staff Writer

Although they have similar names and operate Web portals with a variety of services, Yahoo Japan Corp. is in many ways a very different company from Yahoo Inc.

Yahoo’s profits have been falling because of competition from Google, Facebook and other popular sites. This prompted Yahoo to announce plans to cut 2,000 jobs — or 14 percent of its workforce — earlier this month.

At Yahoo Japan, which is not majority-owned by Yahoo, things are quite different. The company has seen both revenue and profit rise for the past five years as it dominates its domestic rivals.

Why are the two so different? Here are some questions and answers about Yahoo Japan.

Why is Yahoo Japan dominant?

It’s mainly because no other websites in Japan offer such a complete package of contents under a single portal, said Yosuke Maekawa, director of sales at comScore Japan K.K., a company that tracks Internet traffic.

“With such strong content, advertisers can expect synergy in advertising in Yahoo Japan. That is something Yahoo is stronger at than its rivals,” he said.

Who is the firm’s biggest rival and how do their page views and unique visitors stack up?

Yahoo Japan logged 18.4 billion page views and 66 million unique visitors in February, compared with 13.4 billion page views and 62.7 million unique visitors for top rival Google Japan and its affiliates, according to comScore Japan. Those numbers effectively make Yahoo Japan and the sites under its banner the most popular in Japan.

Google Japan’s figures include YouTube, which is 100 percent owned by Google, and Gmail, its email service.

Yahoo Japan’s websites include the Web portal itself and the pages under it, including Yahoo Mail and Yahoo News.

Exact figures for portal traffic are difficult to track precisely because there are different calculation methods. For example, Yahoo Japan says that its average monthly page views come to 51.9 billion and its unique visitors, or what it calls “unique browsers,” come to 274 million. These figures are very different from the ones released by comScore. Google Japan’s public relations department declined to disclose any corresponding figures.

What are Yahoo Japan’s top services?

According to comScore’s Maekawa and General Manager Daizo Nishitani, Yahoo Auction is Japan’s largest auction site in sales, while Yahoo News and Yahoo Chiebukuro (Pearls of Wisdom), a user-generated Q&A site, are the nation’s tops in those categories. The same goes for Yahoo Mail.

According to Yahoo Japan’s media kit, Yahoo Weather, Yahoo Sports and Yahoo Music are the top sites in those categories. It also says Yahoo Mail has 15 million monthly users.

The media kit has information on only 30 of its 149 services.

How competitive is Yahoo Japan in comparison with Yahoo?

Yahoo Japan is much stronger. While Yahoo is more viewed than Google in Japan, Google’s share is generally bigger in America and Europe. In the United States, Google had a 66.4 percent share of the search engine market in February, while Microsoft Corp. had 15.3 percent and Yahoo 13.8 percent, according to comScore.

Yahoo Japan’s share, however, has never been eclipsed by Google Japan since comScore began compiling statistics in June 2007, comScore’s Maekawa said.

Other statistics compilers report similar figures. Yahoo Japan is the No. 1 Web brand in terms of unique visitors, followed by Google Japan, according to the Nielsen’s U.S. Digital Consumer Report for the third and fourth quarters of 2011.

The report also said that Google is No. 1 in the U.S., Australia, Brazil and at least six European countries, including Britain and France. Outside Japan, Yahoo is doing its best in the U.S., where it took third place behind Facebook, according to the report. Yahoo ranks sixth in Britain, 10th in France and is outside the top 10 in Germany.

In China and South Korea, domestic search engine companies such as Baidu.com and Naver.com, respectively, have the commanding shares of the market in terms of the number of searches, according to comScore.

What is the main difference between Yahoo Japan and Yahoo?

In short, Yahoo Japan has evolved independently of Yahoo because Tokyo-based Softbank Corp. has always been its biggest shareholder.

Softbank and Yahoo jointly set up Yahoo Japan in January 1996, with Softbank owning 60 percent and Yahoo 40 percent. Both have since gradually reduced the holdings, leaving Softbank with 35.45 and Yahoo 34.75 percent as of March 2011.

Is a change in the ownership ratios being planned?

Maybe. There have been reports saying that Yahoo is considering selling its stake in Yahoo Japan. But each time such reports come up, Yahoo Japan releases denial statements noting that such measures are always under consideration.

How is Yahoo Japan doing financially?

Its net profit has climbed each year and reached ¥92.2 billion, on sales of ¥292 billion, in the year ending in March 2011, compared with ¥58 billion in net profit and ¥213 billion in sales for the year ending in March 2007.

What does Yahoo Japan make most of its money from?

Mainly from advertising, such as banner ads, ads linked to search results and listings of information. Revenue also comes from tenant fees for online shops that sell their wares on Yahoo Auction, Yahoo Shopping and other services.

The Weekly FYI appears Tuesdays. Readers are encouraged to send ideas, questions and opinions to hodobu@japantimes.co.jp