Supermerlion 3rd Anniversary

Supermerlion survives its 3rd year!

11 February, 2013 by

Today we celebrate the third year year since the Supermerlion went live. Amusingly, the start of Supermerlion’s 4th year coincides with the Lunar New Year festivities. Once again a big thanks to our viewers, your constant patronage have continued to motivate us when pouring the hundreds of hours into this site. For those interested, here’s a recap of the highlights and a quick report on the progress we’ve made over the last year.

For us at least, the last year seemed to fly by really quickly. Rather than growth, 2012 was a year of change for Supermerlion. The biggest of which was of course was last year’s decision to reduce focus on AKB48 content, our major traffic generator. We still report the most significant news but our distaste for re-reporting tabloids, in a year where the majority of 48 news were in fact scandals, meant losing a large chunk of potential viewership.

The past year, Supermerlion has indeed made steps, while small, to begin to diversify our content. AKB48 related articles, which had accounted for 65% of our viewership in 2011, now only account for 33% of our total viewership. Still, we’ve managed to match the previous year’s viewership of 700,000 and then some. While this shift in content may had hindered traffic in the short term, I genuinely believe that there is more purpose in representing a more diverse picture of Japanese culture.

Started and ended 2012 in Japan.

Our data seems to agree. The site now attracts an increased number of repeat and direct visitors, suggesting the growth of our own dedicated audience, albeit small. Extra thanks if you’re one of these people, you’re awesome.

People from the United States and Singapore still make up our largest audience. Thanks to the advent of JKT48, we had quite a bit of Indonesians dropping by for our introductory idol posts earlier in the year, though they’ve since moved on to dedicated sites. We enjoyed quite a bit of attention from Japan in 2012 too, thanks to being featured in a couple of newspaper articles there. The remaining visitors seem to come from Canada, Australia and South East Asia.

Russian viewers are definitely deserving of thanks too. Despite making up a small number, they’ve been some of the most vocally active online, with many citing our travel guides in their own journals. While this rarely leads to more than a couple of “hits”, it’s infinitely rewarding when you know that at least one person has found a use for a guide.

I personally also love when people actually put words to their photos (rather than throw them on Facebook en masse) and enjoy reading through other people’s encounters. It allows you to see a different take, empathize with their excitement and pick up things that would had otherwise been missed.

It can be interesting to see Japan through other people’s journals.

We like to think that the focus on quality content comes with certain pluses, such as the support of our sponsors. We’ve been able to continue running on super fast cloud servers, serving up all of these photos quickly to people all over the world, thanks to those guys. In 2012, we caught the attention of a number of companies, such as Design Tshirts Store graniph, who found value in our high quality audience. Partnering up with the famous Japanese fashion brand, we were able to give away t-shirts to our readers, no strings attached.

What you do see on Supermerlion is just a fraction of offers that we have been proposed. We go through a strict elimination process to bring only what is most relevant and unobtrusive to our viewers. We believe that this integrity brings mutual benefit to us and our partners. In 2012, we’ve continued to support local projects and managed to build up contacts with various industry players, which will definitely come in useful in the future.

Of course, there were various shortcomings on our end too. The biggest being the overall decrease in updates. We released only 187 new posts the last year, our least yet, for a total of 763 on the site. While part of this was due to penned articles being more substantial, much of it was due to increasingly tightening schedules, and video games. The past month has been especially tight, now that I’ve started taking a part time degree, in addition to the everyday running of the company.

Took a chunk out of our year.

Search traffic still accounts for the majority of our viewers. In recent months, I’ve finally fixed an architectural bug in our system that was preventing our newer images from appearing in Google Image Search, leading to a slight boost in visitors. Still, it’ll be a long time before we get around to actually labeling all the older pictures.

Supermerlion has largely failed to tap into social media as a means of spreading awareness. To date, social media accounts for only 5% of our visitors. We’ve managed to pretty much miss the quick rise and tumble of Tumblr and other image centric micro-blogging systems. Facebook continues to be our main means of updating users to new posts, though this has proven ineffective with their recent change of allowing only 20% of our actual subscribers to receive any particular update in their feed. Twitter is a possible alternative but it is a mostly personal account and most of our readers do not seem to appreciate the brutally honest commentary there.

The one exception to all this of course had been YouTube. Last year, the Supermerlion YouTube Channel has managed to attract another 2 million views, coming in just short of 3 million views in total. While most of this was again due to a single “viral” video, the message is clear, video will continue to remain an important medium. Accordingly, Mus’s photobook videos had been quite popular, and so have Daryl’s AKB48 videos, particularly (and amusingly) among Japanese audiences.

Part of our direction as such is including more video content in our articles in the future. Inevitably, with newer technology and improvements in internet speed, moving pictures will be the next step. Our biggest challenge then is the amount of work required to produce such content. Our experiment at STGCC suggested that the amount of effort required to create and edit video “reports” are hardly worth it. We still have a long ways to go technically and are still in the midst of trying to identify something manageable. As a side note, we’ve manage to catch the attention of Wondlan as another sponsor, who is generous enough to provide us with all the professional filming equipment we need.

Where will 2013 take us?

More things on the immediate to do list is for more up to date news and to branch out into covering Japanese video games, and to bring back quick previews of other Japanese novelty toys. While its something that has always been on mind, we also hope to cover more Singapore events and tourist attractions.

Finally, I hope to finally make good on the promise to give away free swag to our viewers. I’m still in the midst of sorting through the logistics of things but have accumulated a sizeable variety of loot, wota (like copies of past reviewed mooks and merchandise) or otherwise (Japanese Charms and souvenirs), though depending on feedback, we may have better stuff to give out.

We’ll probably start off small sometime soon to figure things out, then work toward some better giveaways later in the year. Things are still pretty sketchy at the moment but for the ease of contact we’ll probably use Facebook for the smaller giveaways and only feature bigger events on site. So do follow us over there for updates.

We’ve have a ton of things that we intend to do but actually getting them done can be difficult with our lack of manpower. Currently the only two regular remaining authors at Supermerlion tends to be Mus and myself. As such, our main goal at this point would be to maintain the previous year’s agenda. At the off chance that someone might be interested in contributing to a worthwhile cause, I’m going to leave a shout out to the public. For everyone else, we thank you for a great past year and your continual support.

Some might also realize that today is Kenkoku Kinen no Hi, Japan’s National Foundation Day!


Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.