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Tech Trends

Flipping the Image

Portrait images are becoming the norm as people look at more and more pictures on smartphones. Companies are taking notice of the shift and turning it into a business opportunity.

The company C Channel runs fashion websites that are now posting videos in portrait format. "Just changing a landscape image to a portrait one gives it a brand new feel," says C Channel President Akira Morikawa. "This is very important for business, and has become a great asset."

One fashion reporter always films for a fashion website in portrait format. The reason is that it is better to show someone modelling clothes from head to toe. A landscape image would include a lot of dead space. The portrait format leaves that out and makes the overall image sharper. The company started posting videos in April and the website is already popular with young female smartphone users, getting over one million hits in a single month.

Another major change is being seen in the comics industry. The company NHN PlayArt uploads new episodes of its 20 smartphone comic titles every day. It's attracted 10 million users since starting out less than two years ago.

The secret to its success lies in its original layout. The design is quite different to the approach used for conventional paper titles. If printed comic books are simply digitized, smartphones users need to take the trouble to enlarge the smaller images. So the company uses a format that makes each box big and easy to read. The layout also makes it easy to scroll through the images.

Popular comic artist Yuzuru Homma began creating comics especially for smartphones a year ago. "When you turn to a new page of a comic book, you see all the boxes at a glance," he explains. "But on a smartphone, you can't see the next image until you scroll down. This provides a sense of anticipation."

The change has also helped the company expand into the overseas market. Conventional Japanese comics run from right to left. On the other hand, comics in the US, Europe and South Korea read from left to right. This makes Japanese comics challenging for some people overseas.

Scrolling the images from top to bottom makes it easier for them to follow the order. The company started providing comics for markets in South Korea and Taiwan last year and it helped them gain a foothold in the global market. "As the number of users increases, we can offer more and more quality content for smartphones," says NHN PlayArt CEO Ken Inazumi. "We will surely become an influential company in the comics industry."

The spread of smartphones has made consumers familiar with portrait images, and the trend is generating new business opportunities in the digital content industry.

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