Business / Corporate

Why Sony hack isn't front page news in Japan

by Tomoko A. Hosaka


The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s biggest newspaper, featured a story about Sony Corp. on its website Friday. It wasn’t about hacking. It was about its struggling tablet business.

Over at wire service Kyodo News, just after the FBI formally blamed North Korea for the cyberattack, pop group AKB48 topped headlines online instead.

While American journalists have extensively covered the fallout from the unprecedented hacking attack on Sony Pictures, it hasn’t exactly been massive news here. Stories certainly surfaced after President Barack Obama weighed in on the issue at his year-end press conference Friday. But overall it has received relatively modest attention, mostly in short stories on the inside pages of the major dailies here.

This might all be perplexing to the rest of the world since Sony is one of Japan’s most iconic global brands. But there are a few good reasons why the story hasn’t gotten major play in the mainstream media:

While Sony Pictures is technically part of the Sony empire, it has long been run as an entirely separate U.S. entity. So far, the media here seems to view the hack as an American problem rather than a domestic one. Indeed, at Sony headquarters itself, officials have refused all comment and referred questions about the studio to its HQ in Culver City, California.

“This is seen mainly as an attack on Hollywood,” Damian Thong, a senior analyst at Macquarie Capital Securities in Tokyo, said last week. “I feel they want to clean it up as fast they can and just get on with life.”

As for the studio’s shelving of the Christmas Day release of the North Korea spoof movie “The Interview,” the film’s demise hardly matters in Japan. Sony Pictures never planned to show it here anyway.

Japan’s newspapers, which have the highest daily circulations in the world, are inclined to avoid news that is technologically complex, like hacking. Nobuyuki Hayashi, a veteran freelance tech journalist and consultant based in Tokyo, said the tendency stems from reporters and editors who often don’t have a deep understanding of technology. And neither do their aging readers.

“If you are technically savvy and need information (about the Sony hack), you will get it from the Web news media,” Hayashi said. “Some technically savvy people subscribe to a printed newspaper as well, but that’s only to read other kinds of news.”