Daisuke Sasaki
Vice President of Business Planning / Tokyo

Striving for best practices to provide the world’s best service

Daisuke Sasaki had been aiming to become an educator during college, but he decided to center his career on one of his other interests: the Internet.

After starting his career as an editor, he moved to Livedoor and then to LINE where he worked as an executive officer for their entertainment division. He joined SmartNews in November 2017 as the Vice President of Business Planning and is now responsible for the Media Business Development Division in Japan.

What was your reason behind joining SmartNews?

I wanted to be involved in a service that delivers information through the use of machine learning. I chose SmartNews because the company was deeply involved in this topic. In the past there was the trend of using social graphs as a means of information sharing, but I had some doubts about the method. If you stop and think back to the early part of the 2010s, people were often saying that social networking services were enough to gather information. Rather than news sites and journalistic reports, people were getting their information from their friends’ posts on social media. I remember thinking, there’s no way we can get all the information needed from social media posts, and then there was the 2016 US election. After that, more people became aware of the issues of fake news and filter bubbles as well as the limitations of using social graphs as the only means of distributing information. I feel like this has made it easier for people to understand the meaning behind the challenge that SmartNews is currently undertaking.

What kind of work does the Media Business Development Division at SmartNews do?

The Media Business Development Division is mainly involved in two areas: content programming and partner relationship development. In the former, we work as the point of contact for the user; and in the later, we serve as the point of contact for the publishers. In fact, these two responsibilities often have conflicting interests. What publishers want to do in order to increase their profits will often not be appealing to users. Conversely, if contents were distributed according to the users’ wishes, publishers would probably go out of business. It’s necessary to find a method that balances the needs of both the users and publishers. I believe that the job of Media Business Development is to integrate the two different positions.

Have the changes in the means of content distribution also led to changes in content?

With the evolution of digital advertising models over the past 10 years, unfortunately, the quality of content is starting to lose its importance.

While packaged media gains from improving its quality to the utmost limit, business models based on methods such as target advertising are incentivized to bring in as many readers as possible by any means necessary. This can lead to the idea that the quality of the content is a secondary concern. As the use of targeted advertising has finally begun to show a decline in recent years, it seems that there is once again a demand for quality media and packaging. However, there is no doubt that the method of distributing content and business models will have a significant impact on the content itself.

What is the current situation?

SmartNews creates opportunities for new readers to come across the content we receive from publishers, but developing content distribution algorithms is not the only way we do that. We also develop advertising products such as SmartNews Ads, which influence the circulation of content. We would like to continue contributing to the entire media ecosystem and content quality, by developing new business models and not only ads.

As a VP you have a broad view of the company as a whole in addition to your division. From your perspective, could you tell us more about things that make the hiring process at SmartNews unique?

It’s that we’re always aiming for best practices. Explaining the word “bricolage” as the opposite of what I mean by “best practices” might be easier. To put it simply, bricolage is a method of creating “the only one,” while best practice is a method of creating “the number one.” If bricolage means something like, “making something from the things that happen to be around you,” then best practices means “gathering the best things in order to make something happen.” Since its inception, SmartNews has been aiming to be the best service in the world in terms of information delivery, so we continue to seek the highest level of human resources to make that happen. Since the goals we have set are ambitious, we are very conscious of keeping standards high. All this may sound a bit harsh, but working towards high goals is actually a lot of fun. We’d be happy if you could take on that challenge with us.


Book Recommendation

Remembering to take a step back from work thanks to the story of a wizard

This is the first book in the Earthsea Cycle series. I first read it when I was in junior high school and have continued to reread it as an adult. Today, I brought with me the first edition, published in the U.S. in 1968. I thought that the original edition might give special inspiration to me, so I bought it a few years ago. There’s a part in the story where the main character, a wizard named Ged, keeps flying around the world as a falcon and ends up being unable to return to his human form. There was a point in my life when I could see myself in that character. I was just working all of the time. I didn’t really think deeply about the situation, but then I realized that I’d become a falcon. If I didn’t turn back into a human soon— that is to say, stop working all of the time— then I’d be stuck as an animal like Ged. Thanks to reading this book, I was able to look back at myself in that way. It is a very memorable book that brought me back to being a human being.

A Wizard of Earthsea

Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Publisher: Parnassus Press
Year Published: 1968

The contents are as of September 01, 2021.