ANN 5th Birthday Editorial - Cookie Looks at 5 Years of ANN

by George Phillips, Jul 27th 2003
Today marks the 5th anniversary of the unveiling of Anime News Network.

In The Beginning...
Appx. August 1998
Anime News Network was born in early July, 1998, with Justin Sevakis writing the source to what would become the foundation of the website. Anime News Network wasn't the first anime news website on the Internet; Anime News Service printed its first news in the same year, and the mouthipece of fandom, Anime On DVD, began promoting anime to the DVD standard every company uses today. Before 1998, however, fandom learned of new American acquisitions through word-of-mouth and Usenet, and rumor and fact often blended together as it spread.

ANN, December, 1998
On July 27th, 1998 Justin typed out the first news stories, although the site itself didn't gain public attention until early August. Many of the names in the initial stories continue to be prominent even today — Anime Expo, Disney, AnimeWorks (now a part of Media Blasters), A.D. Vision (now ADV Films), Mixx Entertainment (now TokyoPop), Urban Vision, and Gainax. Designed as a site to support both the fan community and the anime industry, ANN quickly attracted other fans offering assistance. Long-time contributor Isaac Alexander (still a part of ANN to this day) began assisting Justin by finding news that went unreported elsewhere. Looking back on his first year writing for Anime News Network, Justin wrote "I ... decided that ANN should abide by the code of ethics that most news organizations practice." This decision paved the future role Anime News Network would play in anime fandom, as a source of unbiased news and information.

ANN, May, 1999
The first "big" story for Anime News Network was the Mixx Controversy. In 1998 a number of fans verbally attacked Mixx Entertainment's president, Stu Levy. Beginning with Naoko Takeguchi's apperance at Comic-Con dissent between fans and Mixx Entertainment president Stu Levy grew. Tensions grew higher as Mixx Entertainment terminated fan-favorite Editor-in-Chief Ron Scovil, and closed their message board in quick succession. As the first major story covered by ANN, both Mr. Scovil and Mr. Levy shared their opinions on the matter. On the international front, the biggest story of the year was Gainax's tax evasion. Anime News Network was the first major English news site to cover the story.

In 1999, Anime News Network began its regular Spring Anime Preview, looking at titles that would be coming out in America over the course of the next year. While the current Anime Preview has changed gears slightly, the goal is very much the same — introducing fans to the latest anime that will almost certainly be coming to stores in the near future.

In late 1999, Justin Sevakis offered Isaac Alexander the reigns of Anime News Network. By switching hosts to ProHosting.com, and installing a news script, Isaac was able to more easily update the website, and for 3 months Anime News Network enjoyed smooth sailing under Isaac's capable hands. When personal matters arose in Isaac's life, however, he was forced to turn away from ANN, leaving the website un-attended for long periods of time. In May, facing being taken offline forever, both Christopher Macdonald and myself independently contacted Justin Sevakis and asked permission to maintain Anime News Network.

ANN, August, 2000
Initially we had significantly different plans on how to run the site. Having been a long-time reader of ANN myself, I was inclined to keep the site going more or less how it had historically; regular news updates, con reports and maybe an interview or two. Chris, meanwhile, wanted to turn ANN into a sub-section of his own internet anime venture. Of course, neither of us had any prior journalism experience, and thus were flying blind. This lead to a number of story blunders, but even as we made our mistakes, we learned from them and have continued to put forth what we believe to be our best efforts in running this website.

Thanks to very generous support from Anime Expo staff, and some luck on our part, I had been able to attend Anime Expo 2000 and report on it as press. Given the last-minute conditions in which the trip was arranged, and the difficulties experienced during the convention, it's something of a miracle that the report was ever written, regardless of its berevity. Nonetheless, Isaac Alexander somehow managed to find me amidst the 10,000 other faces at Anime Expo. He was the first ANN staffer I personally met face-to-face. Surprisingly, while I met Zac Bertschy and Isaac Alexander at Anime Expo 2000, it wasn't until the following year that Chris and I were able to meet face-to-face.

ANN, February 2001
Towards the end of 2000, we decided that we needed a new look to the site, as the old design was inflexible, using only half of the available screen-space for newer monitors. We contracted a professional designer to make new scripts, and on January 1st, 2001, we unveiled the white and blue design we've used ever since. A short time later we were approached by Daniel DeLorme (a.k.a. Dan42), who has since rewritten every single script on the site and added numerous new features. The most outstanding of these is the Encyclopedia, which was announced June 30th, 2002. I'm proud to see his work is featured so prominently throughout Anime News Network, as anytime a Japanese word (shoujo, shonen) or anime or manga title (Tenchi Muyo!, FLCL) shows up, we can now provide scores of useful information about the title. When added up, the Encyclopedia consists of about 75,000 pieces of information, and continues to grow by about 200 entries per day. We're still looking to add more manga information, and we're branching out into live-action series related to anime such as Kurumi Pure.

The biggest praise the Encyclopedia garners is from industry and convention staff, who utilize the Encyclopedia for everything from sales sheets and advertisements to program guides. We're proud to be providing such a valuable service to fandom through it. Naturally, we're still looking for more information, and for people willing to transcribe DVD or VHS credit lists into the Encyclopedia. I hope we can also show the evolution of the anime industry through re-dubbed titles like Battle of the Planets and Akira.

Anime News Network has grown from a tiny news site, updating once a week, to a site that rarely goes 24 hours without either a news update or a new column or feature. Naturally, the amount of time involved in maintaining this site has ballooned. While Chris and I may have kick-started ANN back to life in 2000, the 15 other staff members brought on board since then deserve a great deal of thanks and appreciation for the amount of time they've invested while juggling personal lives, jobs and other hobbies.

What does the future hold for ANN? Well, first of all, at Anime Expo we announced that Chris will be ANN's first full-time employee, to begin sometime in the next few months. In of itself, this means that ANN will no longer be a "hobby" for us, but an actual business venture. This, like so many other things at ANN, is a change that is mostly "behind the scenes". However, it is an important one to us, as it allows us greater freedom to persue other commercial ventures... "Like what?" you might ask. Unfortunately, we can't really say quite yet. But, if things go well, you'll be hearing about some of these plans soon!

How has Anime News Network grown over the years?

Date Pages Per Day Unique Visits Per Day Bandwidth Per Day
August, 1999 3,000 (1,100?) (110mb?)
August, 2000 6,800 2,480 241mb
August, 2001 11,900 4,900 967mb
October, 2002 38,000 8,500 2.6gb
June, 2003 122,700 17,000 2.9gb
Numbers in parenthesis extrapolated from actual information
"Pages Per Day" is the total number of times per day that a page is loaded from ANN's servers. This includes every encyclopedia page, the forum, each news article, and basically every click on ANN. Some people might click on two links per day, while others might click fifty. In the end, however, each click adds up. The increased numbers of columns, articles, and con reports have provided a significant boost to our daily page stats.

Similar to the above statistic, "Unique Visits Per Day" only tracks the first page that each visitor opens. A visitor is defined as anyone who accesses the site once (or more) in a short period of time. This number is a little higher than the actual number of unique visitors per day, as some people visit the site two or three times per day. Additionally, proxies and cached versions of pages contribute to the difference between number of unique visits per day, and number of unique visitors. We've seen significant increases in both numbers of visitors as well as numbers of visits, meaning more people are reading our site, and more people are returning more often to see what's been added.

"Bandwidth" is fairly self-explanatory. A page might be a few kilobytes, and a graphic a few dozen... but when thousands of people download the same graphics and the same text, it adds up quickly. A gigabyte (gb) is 1,000 megabytes (mb). Thanks to optimized HTML and re-used graphics throughout the site, we've managed to keep daily bandwidth usage fairly constant over the past year.

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