Cell Phone Novels

***Atashi Kanojo***

Keitai Shousetsu means "Cell Phone novels", which are short novels meant to be read with cell phones.

Today, "The 3rd Cell Phone Novel Award" was awarded[ja], and a novel called "Atashi Kanojo (I, girlfriend) "[ja] won the grand prize (with 2million yen prize).

I have never read Cell Phone novels before,but I tried reading this for a moment now...

The screen looks like this:

You can see from the image that all of the lines are really short with one or two words, and it has dozens of line breaks.

This is the translation of the first page:





Well this year 24



Of course

I have

I mean

Why not?



is ordinary


I'm dating him


-end of page1-

and it goes on and on with all these line breaks and "mitaina"s.

I don't think there is any translation for "mitaina" as it doesn't mean anything, it's there at the end of some of the sentences. Someone counted this "mitaina"s and it is said that there are 423 pages for this novel, and there are 210 "mitaina" in this novel.

Those line breaks and "mitaina"s are unique and it is so different from what we read as paper novels or within the internet world that we see on computer screens.

This unique "Atashi Kanojo" grammer was not acceptable to most of the grownups and there is a big buzz online by the adults making fun of this.

"Atashi blog"[ja] is a joke website that enables you to put your blog URL in the box, and returns contents in a "Atashi Kanojo" grammer. Of course the enter button says "mitaina(みたいな)"

On the other hand, others got used to this style where there is a certain rhythm and got sympathetic about the story - some even blogs that they had cried out with tears reading this.

***Impact of Cell Phone Novels***

Whether we like it or not, the impact of cell phone novels are becoming so huge that we cannot ignore.

The year 2007's best selling novels ranking shocked the industry. 5 out of top 10 best selling novels had cell phone novels, especially all of the top 3 were cell phone novels written by amateurs. The best selling novel in Japan in 2007 was a cell phone novel "Koizora" which was read by 25 million readers, got published and sold approximately 2 million copies, was made into a film with gross revenue of 3.9 billion yen, with 3.14 million people visiting the theater.It was later adapted into drama series too. Koizora was 10th in the year 2007's best selling book ranking.

***Who are the players?***

The biggest company providing the cell phone novels is "Mahou no Island (magical island)"[ja] which Koizora was originally uploaded and published.

Following is based on a translation of an interview article with Akira Taniguchi[ja], the CEO of Mahou no Island on Chiyoda Portal site, plus what I heard from my friend who works for Mahou no Island.

Mahou no Island is a website that enables you to create websites, novels, poetry etc for free. It started in December 1999, and has 5.7million users (of which 80% are female) and has monthly page view of 3.3billion. Their business model is advertisements, content business, content management, publishing and EC.

The service "Mahou no Island" started 8 years ago, but the company actually started 19 years ago. They were a IT developer company then, they did the developing work during the day, and developed Mahou no Island during the night as a side project. The first server was placed under the CEO's desk.

The first day they had 300PV, the first week 30 thousand PV/day, the first month they had 400thousand PV/day and in 3 months they grew to 1.2 million PV/day.

The reason why Mahou no Island had a competitive advantage was that they started with cell phones and grasped the customer needs and coped with them rapidly, whereas for the competitors, cell phone site was like an appendix to the PC site. They grew up with the cell phone users together to make the website better. It is said that the users were amazed by how fast the fixes were made on the site when they gave requests- it is funny when you know about the fact that they were doing a big company's work during the day and those fixes were made during the night... with all the passions toward creating a better site.

Cell phone websites are always fighting with the problem of unethical contents for their young users. Mahou no Island has a service called "i-police" which checks the community sites within Mahou no Island and warns or deletes certain contents when they find them. As most of the users of Mahou no Island are teenagers, harmful contents (such as bullying) is a serious problem. 70% of the checks are done by computer, and 30% is by human. They say deleting the contents is easy, but it will not solve the problems. The real solution is to educate "why" such usage is bad, and stop that child from repeating that mistake. Mahou no Island invites students to visit the company now and then, to learn / experience from them.

It was also revealed today [ja]that Jakucho Setouchi, an 86 year old novelist secretly created a cell phone novel. Many people points out that cell phone novels has a bad influence on Japanese novel culture, but she says she wanted to know the reason why cell phone novels are read so much. Cell phone novels has strange grammers that are used by the youngsters, and Setouchi tried using such grammer for the novel.

***Cell Phones***

We really can't live without cell phones in the current society.

We wake up
- cell phone is your alarm

Commute (Go to school/office)
- cell phone serves as your wallet(osaifu keitai), train ticket
- you use cell phone to read e-mails, browse the web, play games, listen to music, watch TV (one-seg), etc

While at school / work
- you use cell phone for phone calls / internet / e-mails, etc

After school / work
- email / call your friends to get together
- use train timetable applications for changing trains
- use GPS to find restaurants etc
- use to pay for tickets, get coupons, etc

We're using the cell phones the whole day, and more so with the children.

Some children are addicted to cell phones, some are bullying other children using cell phone emails and BBSs, etc. I think I should write about this in another post, but some of the children seems to have a weird rules that they have to reply to cell phone emails within 3 minutes which accelerates the cell phone addictions...

***Some numbers on cell phones***

There are more than 100 million cell phones in Japan.

**Internet usage research by Ministry of General Affairs**

- Use PC to access internet 78,130,000 (88.7%)
- Use cell phone to access internet 72,870,000 (82.7%)
- Use Games and TVs to access internet 3,580,000(4.1%)

- PC and cell phone 59,930,000(68.0%)
- PC only 14,690,000(16.7%)
- cell phone only 9,920,000(11.3%)

**Mobile contents business market research report by Ministry of General Affairs[ja]**

Mobile business market is 1.1464 trillion yen(2007)23% increase from last year.
Within this, mobile contents market is 423.3 billion yen(16% increase from last year)
Mobile commerce market is 723.1 billion yen.(29% increase from last year)

red:mobile content market
blue: mobile commerce market

Mobile content market

ring tone : 55.9 billion yen(34% decrease from last year)
ring song : 107.4billion yen(42% increase from last year)
mobile game : 84.8 billion yen(13% increase from last year)
e-books : 22.1 billion yen(220% increase from last year)
fortune telling : 18.2 billion yen(15% increase from last year)
standby display image : 22.7 billion yen(8% decrease from last year)
other : 112.2 billion yen(34% increase from last year)

**Mobile websites data**(08/11/12 update)

major mobile websites in Japan

data source: Nikkei IT PLUS

**Mobile industry study group**(08/10/07 update)

Taguchi-san did a study group on mobile industry with Sato-san of froute as the lecturer.

Post from IDEA * IDEA [ja]
Post from Akiyan.com [ja]

-mobile search industry trend

indexing by (1) directory by manual (2) parser by crawler (3) DB
vertical search
specialized search engine (music etc)
PFI(pay for inclusion)ads
mobile search word trend are becoming specific words such as artist name (not ring tone etc)
users search periodically (such as once a day) on specific words
cross media (TV to mobile)
mobile search used to be a pass time- it has now become a tool to use "when in need"


mobile search results are displayed in the following order: Official site - mobile site - PC site
best to become PC site.
include meta tag to claim it is a mobile site

- how to increase access

Getting exposure on the news of mobile SNS is important
Get introduced in GIGAZINE or narinari.com, and you will be on mobile SNS which will drive you traffic

- contents

comics, games about love
highschool students find interesting contents through SNS
people in their thirties use Gmail and YouTube

- monster sites

there are monster sites in the mobile world with more traffic than Yahoo or Google
partnership with those companies helps your business a lot.
Megaview (BBS), Zenryaku Profile (前略プロフィール), AWalker (エーウォーカー), Peps! (ペップス)


CTR depends on number of unique user and how much users are used to ads.
banner ads on imenu has higher CTR(3-10%), portals (0.1-0.5%), CGM sites has lower CTR(0.01-0.05%)

-market trend

E-commerce will grow in terms of sales, but may not be very profitable

-industry trend

There might be a big change in 2010-2011
openness, standardization of pictogram, etc.

-why there is not many engineers in the mobile world

Making a mobile site alone is not easy. Coding 20%, testing 80%... leads to demotivation, mobile-native youngsters are not working yet, no way to promote= do not get access= demotivation

- current trends of difficulties in these couple of years for the developers

there are increasing number of engines (Java etc) that the applications run
basically support only the applications that are tested with real machines


don't use too many images

-Japanese mobile contents that are popular outside Japan

games are popular in EU

**Some numbers on DeNA**[ja]
DeNA is the company that operates mobage-town

2008 Apr-June sales 9 billion yen (60.7% increase from last year), 4.337 billion yen (108% increase from last year)

***Cell phones to be banned in schools?***

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology told the elementary schools and junior high schools all over Japan to prohibit students from bringing cell phones to schools[ja]. It says 1) elementary school children and junior high school children are basically prohibited to bring cell phones to schools 2) if it is going to be allowed for safety reasons etc, the usage must be limited to certain functions such as GPS 3) Cell phones that are allowed to be brought into schools may not be used in the schools.

Although it is understandable that there are various negative effects for the children especially by becoming cell phone addicts, is banning the usage really the right solution? Isn't it more important that we try to educate them and make them understand what is wrong and what is right and why? Innovation starts when you use them- and currently, Japan is fortunately advanced in the mobile world because the users are using cell phones so much and the manufacturers are trying to keep up with the demands, creators are creating applications to meet those demands, and new culture including cell phone novels - whether you like it or not - came to exist. We all know that there is going to be even a bigger market in the mobile world- are we trying to lose Japan's competitiveness by decreasing the exposure of the children to mobile world? sigh...