But Computing Japan, Japan's newest English-language monthly started last June, is changing that.
"When Michael Dell [president of U.S.-based Dell Computers] comes to Japan, he needs to know what's happening here in the industry," said Computing Japan Publisher and President Terry Lloyd. "I give him a copy of the issue and he says `Finally, something I can read in English.'*"
The magazine, which Mr. Lloyd calls "the English-language voice of the computer industry," has been a success advertising-wise too.
In the seven months since its startup, the publication has racked up 90 pages of advertising and revenue of $500,000. The magazine broke even with its December issue, no mean feat in a recessionary market choked with computer titles from Ziff Japan and Softbank as well as others. This fact is especially remarkable considering Japan has relatively no locally published special interest magazines in a language other than Japanese.
Computing Japan is the brainchild of 36-year-old Mr. Lloyd, a self-taught Australian entrepreneur. Mr. Lloyd moved here after a vacation from his computing job in Australia, and in 1988 opened a translation company, later shifting into computers and publishing.
Dell is one of Computing Japan's largest advertisers, along with Microsoft, Lotus and Apple, paying $5,500 for a full color page and $4,500 at the contract rate.
Mr. Lloyd said he is now in stage two of a three-stage ad selling strategy. The first stage was to identify and appeal to the local market-non-Japanese companies with local offices such as Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, BMW and Dell. He determined there were between 60,000 and 70,000 corporate business computer users users in 3,500 of these companies. That market, worth $350 million in hardware, software and small systems, was a draw for potential advertisers. So far, about 30 advertisers have signed up on the basis of that selling argument.
Phase 2, already begun, is to target Japanese manufacturers such as Hitachi and Itoh to place corporate ads to attract joint venture business from U.S. computer marketers. "When I visit a Japanese potential advertiser, I don't tell then how many boxes they're going to sell, I tell them about leverage-about getting their message to U.S. manufacturers," said Mr. Lloyd, who speaks passable Japanese.
As part of this second phase, Mr. Lloyd plans to get the magazine distributed in the U.S. He started by advertising in Byte magazine. Through this process, he lined up U.S. magazine Multilingual Computing as a distributor and the agreement was announced at the COMDEX conference in Las Vegas in November.
The third stage is an ad package offering an advertiser space in Computing Japan as well as a translated ad in local Japanese-language computer titles. That offer hasn't been finalized yet.
"When we get to this phase the industry will have come full circle," he said.
Mr. Lloyd used his database of 20,000 infotech and corporate executives for his first direct mail promotion, handled in-house.
He now prints 11,000 issues monthly-2,000 paid. Of those, 1,000 are sold through local bookstores and 1,000 complimentary issues are issued free to Northwest Airlines passengers. Starting last month, United Airlines was also distributing the magazine free and Mr. Lloyd is negotiating to sign up Delta Air Lines and American Airlines.
"We are working on the strength of our uniqueness," he said of the airlines' interest.
One reason for Computing Japan's success, Mr. Lloyd said, is that he caters particularly to advertisers. "I am now using the magazine as a tool for business to promote their products," he said. "I am a businessman, I explore every avenue I can. There are not too many businesssmen in the media industry in Japan. Most come from journalist backgrounds and are hung up on the content, not the business side."