Superfuture's Niche New Media Empire

Everyone wants an insider’s guide to a new—or even a familiar—city, which is precisely what has made Superfuture such an urban-savvy online destination. Launched in 1999 by Australian designer Wayne Berkowitz as a resource for his visiting relatives while on a government grant in Tokyo, the website has since grown to encompass recommended bars, hotels and stores in multiple cities, various discussion platforms, shopping guides, news and now even an iPhone city guide for Tokyo.

Boasting 70,000 members—most of whom fall in the 18 to 30-year-old range—Superfuture’s community thrives on its active international dialogue through a largely self-motivated forum. Although impassioned debates can occasionally escalate (Berkowitz admits: “At times it has felt like I am the mayor of a city of unruly youth”), this network-wide eagerness is just a further illustration of the enthusiasm of the individuals who comprise the Superfuture lifestyle. The breadth and dedication of this membership has also meant that Berkowitz has been able avoid relying on Facebook or Twitter for promotion and advertising. “Contrary to what many people think, more people doesn’t always equal more revenue on internet,” he explains. “Advertisers also would prefer to reach a tightly defined market more than just ‘everyone’.”

Based around an intuitive, user-friendly interface, Superfuture maintains a sleek aesthetic to suit its no-nonsense, straightforward ethos. Still, Berkowitz is always striving toward greater simplicity, erring toward classic graphic design principles rather than subscribing to overly trendy alternatives. “The web might end up an endless noise full of blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare posts, reduced to a banal popularity contest,” Berkowitz says of his desire to keep things streamlined and direct. And with the way things are going, Superfuture indeed has a super future.

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