It depends. Not all content types are created equal or rather audience expectations for quality vary between markets, content categories and within content categories within given markets. This makes deciphering customer expectations for quality sound tricker than it is. Actually, it's just a question of carrying out the due diligence ahead of localizing by building a clear picture of the target audience and gathering some key insights relating to them.
Here we impart what we know about the quality customers expect based on our experience of dubbing content for Sky, BBC and Business Insider, coupled with our own research into customer expectations by region.
Understand your audience
To understand what quality your audience will accept, it’s first important to have a clear understanding of who that audience is and where they’re located. Defining audiences in a potential market doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as looking at where traffic is already coming from outside of your existing markets and using that as a starting point to understand the appetite for certain content types there.
It’s important to note that this is a starting point, however, and it’s sensible to begin by localizing a single content type or path of entry to minimize risk in the long term. For example, we already successfully dub video content for Business Insider into Spanish on YouTube and Facebook, but expanding onto other social platforms is part of a trial that will inform the company’s future investment in diversification.
Understand that your audience in not a monolith
Having identified a jumping off point (be that a potential new market, a new target language or platform within a pre-existing market), audience segmentation tools are the best way to define the specifics of the community, based on similar use cases. If the content category is educational content and the audience is made up of baby boomer academics and gen Z bloggers (granted, unlikely), with different expectations for quality, the task is to work within a common threshold or choose to target the most valuable audience.
This is where social listening tools come in useful: a tried-and-tested method for understanding how audience segments interact with adjacent content in a market. The content you create for your existing markets might not necessarily work verbatim in the new market but finding overlapping trends – in both the content category and the quality audiences expect when consuming it – is what allows companies to scale.
Understand what audiences want to get out of certain content types?
Expectations for dubbing quality vary. Alexa’s obviously synthetic voice is good enough because she’s just putting toilet roll on the list, telling us the population of Georgia or turning up Total Eclipse of the Heart. She’s performing a task on our behalf. But we wouldn’t be happy if she was cast as a lead in Black Panther.
To that end, it’s important to bear in mind the intention of the content and the expectation of the audience and let those things be the guide of the localization type, and then test and learn accordingly. As laid out in our Sky case study in our recent research paper, Sky Germany dubs all its documentary content into German using an in-house team since even diverse audiences there have high expectations when it comes to the type of voice used, as well as the quality of the dub.
The Sky UK newsroom, however, uses Papercup to automatically dub globally relevant news videos on its social channels into Spanish. Both documentary content and news videos fall into the informative category, but the expectation differs by platform. Audiences looking to consume short, snappy informative content deployed on social channels are looking for relevancy (in terms of geography and/or topicality) and they expect to leave with accurate information, succinctly delivered. They expect totally accurate translation, which our technology together with our human quality assurance team delivers, but not necessarily with the same levels of expressivity demanded by the documentary format.
“The result of choosing the right localization type for the content type speaks for itself – the new Spanish Sky news YouTube channel amassed 26 million views and 113,000 subscribers in the first 12 months.” Sky case study.
Expectations differ by market, audience and content category
Germany has a long history of dubbing content and as a result audiences there will accept nothing less than perfect for most content types. However, Italy and Spain also have a long history of dubbing, but audiences there are more likely to be accepting of satisfactory localization. Scandinavian countries tend to be proficient in English, meaning it can be more practical not to dub for these countries.
Maps such as the one above and the sweeping conclusions that can be drawn from them can provide starting points when thinking about how to approach localization for certain regions. However, in a small survey of 10 localization experts spanning multiple regions, we found a correlation between the size of the market and the variability in dubbing quality that would be accepted. The larger the market, the greater the variability even within a content type: for example in China, within the entertainment category, expectations for dubbed content varies between ‘satisfactory’ (accurate translation but expect dubs to be mismatched to speaker's face) and ‘perfect’ (as close to the original voice, movement and phrasing). This highlights the importance of audience segmentation, social listening and competitor analysis, even for content types within the same category.
It's also worth noting that the general information out there surrounding localization methods applies to what could be described as 'top of funnel' content, that is – expensive content produced for general brand awareness or entertainment purposes rather than to deliver a particular function like maintaining engagement or improving reach.
Quality does matter, that much is for sure, but when trying to achieve a set business goal, getting to the heart of audience expectations makes it infinitely easier for a company to understand how to apply different localization methods, what level of localization qualifies as good enough, and when something calls for native content created especially for a specific audience within that market. Or to put it a different way – to decide what content and what localization method will drive the most value for the least budget.