Mark & Mary Devlin

Mark & Mary Devlin38 posts

Mark and Mary Devlin are the founders of Newslines. Born in Scotland, Mark and Mary moved to Japan in 1989. In 1993 they started handing out a four-page classified ads sheet on Tokyo streets. Over 14 years that sheet grew into Metropolis, Japan’s No 1 English Magazine. In 2000 they founded japantoday.com, the No. 1 news and discussion site about Japan in English. In 2007 Mark & Mary sold their businesses and moved to the United States where they opened Kroaky’s, a private karaoke room business. In 2014 they launched Newslines, an innovative news timeline site. They have two children and now live in Glasgow, Scotland.

7 Oct, 1989
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Move to Japan

Moves Country

With little job opportunity in Scotland, Mark goes to Japan and initially works as an English teacher and an editor of financial reports before working as a Network Administrator for Jardine Fleming Securities.
After working while at University for Ford as a management trainee, Mary joins Andersen Consulting, where she is a Strategy Consultant. On arriving in Tokyo in 1990 she works as an IT Consultant for Union Bank of Switzerland.

1993
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I Pledge Allegiance

Mark and Christopher Hall form a band called United Nation and record five songs.

Jan 1994
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Strobe

Strobe laserRun trance parties under the name Strobe and rent out a laser that Mark had built to other party organizers.

24 Feb, 1994
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First issue of Tokyo Classified published

Product Release

After months of planning the first issue of Tokyo Classified is published. Mark designs and lays out the magazine while Mary sells the ads. Classified ads are collected from various noticeboards throughout Tokyo and through a Macintosh-based voicemail system linked to a premium-rate telephone line. The four-page sheet is handed out in about 15 locations where foreigners hang out by a “target team”. Mary:

There was just no information in English.

Tokyo Classified – Metropolis 1994

24 Feb, 1995
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Start Crisscross Internet

Founding

From 1994 Tokyo Classified readers are able to place ads using an online BBS system. As the Internet grows in popularity Mark & Mary start Crisscross Internet, one of the first Internet Providers in Japan. Crisscross’s “Instant Internet” allows anyone to access the Internet by calling a premium-rate telephone number from their modem for an per-minute fee of ¥20 (approx $0.2). The business grows rapidly and gains over 5000 customers.

1997
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Asahi Evening News interview

Interview

In an interview with the Asahi Evening News, Mark & Mary talk about the magazine:

If you’ve just arrived in Tokyo, you can use the classifieds to find a house, to go places and meet people. You couldn’t do that before.

On the difficulty of selling ads in Japan:

Before we published the first issue, Mary went around trying to sell ads to Japanese companies. We had a bit of a problem because many Japanese companies didn’t know what a classified ad was.

0

Japan Today launch

Product Release

Japan Today is launched as a rival to Japan’s English language newspapers. Over the next year the site will become the most popular news site about Japan in the world, regularly hovering around the top 5000 sites in the world. Japan Today is the first news site in the world to have reader comments directly under the news articles. Before then the readers had always been forced into the forum area of the site.

24 Apr, 2001
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A tour round the Metropolis office

TV Appearance

MX TV’s World in Tokyo program gives viewers a tour of the Tokyo Classified office. Mark:

All these ads came from the readers, so the readers made the magazine bigger and bigger.

About Japan Today:

We want to really promote the idea that foreigners and Japanese people can come together and start to talk about things and make better communication.

Tokyo Classified – Metropolis 2001

Jul 2001
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Renamed to Metropolis

Design Change

In 2001, Tokyo Classified had grown to 48 pages/week and was renamed Metropolis. More information was added about Tokyo entertainment and lifestyle. A quarterly city guide for tourists was added.

11 Dec, 2002
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Business a.m interview

Interview

MarkMaryDevlinMonoIn an interview titled Big in Japan, with the Scottish newspaper Business a.m. Mark & Mary talk about the renaming of Tokyo Classified to Metropolis, how the dot.com bust affected Japan Today and their relationship with Scotland. Mark:

I look up Scottish property websites about once every two weeks and I have a little dream of buying something there…But this place [Tokyo] has a real energy. The last time I returned to Tokyo after a holiday in Scotland I was so happy to be back. Even in that short time, Tokyo had changed. I took a walk down the street and it seemed like new buildings had gone up. Scotland’s a great place but there’s a real energy here. And we’ve still got a bit of work to do.

27 Mar, 2005
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The Mishima Incident

Yukio-MishimaMark receives media attention for a screenplay he has written about the relationship between Yukio Mishima, one of Japan’s most famous authors, and Henry Scott Stokes, at that time a foreign correspondent for the London Times. Mishima, the writer of Confessions of a Mask and The Temple of The Golden Pavillion was an outspoken bisexual ultranationalist who believed in the divinity of the Emperor. In an attempt to save the sould of Japan he formed his own army and in 1970 staged an abortive military coup in Tokyo, which ended with his ritual suicide. Stokes later becomes Mishima’s biographer.

The screenplay can be downloaded here.

14 May, 2006
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Newsweek article

Interview

Crisscross Social Network is featured in Newsweek magazine. Mark:

The problem with the expat markets is how you get beyond them. Where do you go?

May 2006
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Launch Crisscross Social Network

Founding

Crisscross Screen captureCrisscross Social Network is launched. The site uses a sophisticated drill-down search to connect people with the multiple, diverse interests.

The system grows to over 30,000 users, mainly in Japan.

It was not until 2012 that sites like Facebook offered similar “graph search” functions. In 2012 the site was being prepared for relaunch in the U.S. as CRXSS, a social search engine.

Sep 2007
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Metropolis sale

Acquisition

After publishing over 700 issues, the Devlins sell Metropolis to Lloyd, a New Zealand and Australian dual national, based in Japan. Over 14 years the magazine has grown to over 80 full-color pages every week made by a team of 35 staff from all over the world. The magazine has annual sales of ¥360 million and 20% profit, from hundreds of display and commercial classified advertisers and is, by far, Japan’s No 1 English magazine. A brief history of Metropolis is here.

0

Japan Today sold

Acquisition

The Devlins sell Japan Today to GPlus Media, a Tokyo-based publishing company known for Real Estate Japan and GaijinPot, a community site for foreigners in Japan.

17 Nov, 2008
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Start Kroaky’s Karaoke

Opens Store

The Devlins start Kroaky’s, a private room karaoke club. Private karaoke rooms, or “karaoke box” are a popular concept in Asia and there are a handful of places in America’s larger cities. Kroaky’s is the only such club in a small city. The Sarasota store is to be a model for a franchise business that will take the private room karaoke concept across the U.S. After a few months a public lounge is added.

Kroaky's in The Bradenton Herald

Sep 2010
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Lloyd does not pay for Metropolis

Lloyd reneges on the final payment for Metropolis. The Devlins find out that Lloyd and his wife Kumiko have cheated them out of collateral property by secretly remortgaging the property to Shinsei Bank, just two weeks after he buys the magazine from them. Lloyd refuses to make any settlement and, over the next three years, engages in multiple frauds to hide his assets. The Devlins pursue civil and criminal actions.

6 Sep, 2012
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WeCheck launch

Announcement

Wechecklogosq_215WeCheck launches officially just after Barack Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention. At this point the site is made up of speeches that are tagged with “WeCheck” tags, which highlight claims, logical fallacies and inconsistencies in the text. The site runs on MediaWiki software, the same software that Wikipedia uses.

As the election gets nearer the site focuses more on providing a neutral playing field where people of all political persuasions can come together to fact check politicians and pundits — a kind of Wikipedia for fact checks.

The site also includes a Fact Check Watch section which highlights the bias of “fact-checking” sites such as Politifact and The Washington Post fact checkers.

26 Sep, 2012
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Sarasota Patch interview

Interview

Mark is interviewed about WeCheck. describing how the idea came to him when he annotated an editorial by Nicolas Kristof in the New York Times. The site is an online version of that manual process, allowing users to tag speeches and articles for common logical fallacies, and so dig deeper into the truth of political statements.

At first I wasn’t thinking ‘fact checking,’ I just wanted to find out whether it was true or not…I have good faith in the people. There’s enough people out there that are out to find the truth than for the political aspect.

22 Oct, 2012
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Benghazi Attack timeline started

As a way to better understand the conflicting stories around the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Mark starts 2012 Benghazi Attack Timeline. The page grows rapidly into the most comprehensive timeline of the attacks and moves up Google’s search engine results until it is the second link.

Feb 2013
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Wecheck becomes Newslines

Mark relaunches the site as Newslines, and moves the site focus to news timelines. The site now runs on WordPress.

9 Sep, 2014
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15,000 posts approved

Announcement

Newslines reaches 15,000 approved posts, with 250-450 posts being approved daily.  The largest number of approved posts in one day was 533. The site has over 400 writers on its waiting list.

15 Jan, 2015
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$1-per-post program finishes at 26,000 posts

Announcement

The $1-per-post program finishes. Since May, 2014, Newslines writers added over 26,000 posts and received over $26,000 in rewards. The first part of Newslines’ revenue-share system — a system that allows qualified writers to become editors and to be paid for their edits — has been completed. The second stage of the system — which calculates the revenue share amounts for each post – is currently being programmed and is due for official release by the end of January.

12 Feb, 2015
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Revenue-share system launches

Newslines launches its revenue-share system. The system splits 50% of ad revenues on user-generated pages with the writers, editors who contributed to the site, and to those who invite other users to patrticipate. Writers receive 50-70% of revenues, editors receive 25-30% and networkers receive around 5%. It is the world’s first system to allow for payments for editing other contributors’ posts. Mark:

We hate that the people behind many large sites, and their investors, get rich off of the free work of their contributors. It’s not just that we think people should be paid for their work, we feel strongly that contributors who help build a business should get a share in the growth of the business too. We see our contributors as investors in growth. Just like an investor who has the potential to have a high return as a company grows, if you put an equivalent amount of work into building your portfolio of content, you can share in the rewards.

13 Apr, 2015
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Japan Today sold

Acquisition

GPlus Media, the company that publishes Japan Today, is sold to Fuji TV-Lab, a subsidiary of Fuji Media Holdings Inc. The sales also includes GPlus’ other internet properties, including GaijinPot and Real Estate Japan. Fuji TV-Lab:

The Japanese government has set an annual target of 20 million foreign visitors to Japan in 2020 for the Tokyo Olympic/Paralympics Games and Fuji Media Holdings expects this will increase the demand for media targeting foreign residents and visitors to Japan at an accelerated pace. In the context of this trend, Fuji Media Holdings understands that there is a favorable opportunity to create several inbound/outbound businesses and thus welcomes GPlus Media and REJ into the group to strengthen its ability to reach the foreign community in Japan.

Jan 2016
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Return to Scotland

Moves Country

After 26 years overseas — 18 in Japan and eight in the United States — The Devlins return to Scotland to live.

1 Aug, 2016
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Wins #DellScotIgnite contest

Other Awards

Newslines is chosen as one of two winners to enter Dell’s Entrepreneurial Growth Programme for Scottish Scale Ups Newslines and Ibis Vision, a company that has a new way to detect glaucoma, receive technology, training, mentorship and access to Dell events. Newslines CEO, Mark Devlin:

After many years overseas running successful media businesses, we recently came back to settle in Scotland. We know that we can unlock the potential in the new media landscape but need to tap into skills and networks within Scotland and beyond.  Dell’s brand and scope gives us that additional ‘clout’ that we can’t achieve as a small scale-up.

Dell Scotland site lead, Mark White:

When we launched this programme we were confident that the Scottish scale-up environment was thriving.  We were still pleasantly surprised at the quality and breadth of the entries, a testament to the future of Scottish industry. IbisVision and Newslines are very different companies but both are working in areas that are ready for disruption.  We knew when we met with them that we could partner with them to help them thrive and I’m looking forward to working with them through the next year on our DellScotIgnite journey.

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