FRIENDS, TWEETS, AND YOUTUBE: NEW DIRECTIONS IN ONLINE CAMPAIGNING IN JAPAN
This paper has two main objectives that lie in the intersection between theory and practice in investigating Japan’s new political websphere. First, from a theoretical perspective, this paper identifies online strategies that appeared in the 2013 Upper House election in Japan in order to assess professionalization in campaigning (often referred to as the “Americanization” of political campaigns). While prior to 2013 it was particularly challenging to evaluate professionalism in Japanese political campaigns under the old restrictions in the POEL, the lifting of the ban on internet-based campaigning has ushered in a new era in political campaign communication in Japan. In particular, this paper examines candidate and political party use of the internet in terms of media segmentation, campaign personalization, and campaign branding strategies.
Second, from a practical viewpoint, this paper explores the extent to which political parties and candidates utilized internet- and mobile-media tools during the 2013 campaign in terms of party affiliation. With political parties and candidates continuing to offer web-based information through “traditional” online means including websites, blogs, and email, in the 2013 election cycle, they also experimented with video (through Youtube and other video channels) as well as social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook. With the expansion of media channels, a range of third-party actors in the Japanese online electoral sphere emerged with the active participation of the national election management board and online advertisers. By investigating the online Japanese electoral environment through theoretical and practical perspectives, this paper describes how the Japanese political websphere has entered a new phase of online campaigning with multiple online delivery channels.