TOKYO: Japan's leading newspapers have been prompted into a unique online alliance as they attempt to rekindle readers' interest in the face of a serious internet challenge.

The Yomiuri Shimbun, the Asahi Shimbun and the Nikkei dailies, which between them currently boast more than 21 million readers, are planning a joint website and further cooperation in distribution -possibly by combining delivery operations in rural areas to cut costs.

Their aim is to attract younger people to the titles, says Asahi ceo Kotaro Akiyama, amid fears that allegiance to the web and the country's ageing population could seriously impact the newspaper industry in the future.

He adds: "We want to increase the influence of newspapers in the world of the internet."

And Nikkei president Ryoki Sugita declares: "The largest purpose is to help readers realise the role of newspapers seen in the internet media.

"Through the new project, we hope internet readers will also read newspapers."

The new website, set for a 2008 debut, would see articles from all three titles posted next to each other and would generate revenue through advertising.

Data sourced from Financial Times online; additional content by WARC staff