As Jesse, Papercup’s CEO wrote recently, Netflix has changed the way we consume video content and localization is at the heart of the streamer’s ongoing success. Its localization strategy is to produce content that is foremost relevant to the territories they’re originally created for, in the knowledge that authenticity resonates globally. Since Netflix doesn’t have to think about ratings (that method of monetization is based on ad marketing models) the data and insights it collects prove Netflix’s unique content strategy works – as evidenced by U.S. audiences’ willingness to watch localized foreign-produced content and the global success of its “local-language originals”.
Is going global, like Netflix, the only way to succeed?
In a word: no. Content creators, media agencies, and brands build very successful businesses by creating video content for a single primary market. Take LadBible or Jungle Creations, for instance, both have dominated the UK digital video market across multiple platforms, from Snap to Facebook, raking in millions of dollars in ad revenue.
Then there are creators and companies that reach a wider global audience with single language content, like Vox media. Around 70% of its traffic comes from its home region, the U.S., and the remainder from other English-speaking territories.
Though these companies prove that there is more than one way to grow an audience, other larger creators have opted for localization as their method of global expansion. Take Sky News (a Comcast company), which is now translating its existing factual and news content for a Spanish-speaking audience. Or Vice, which is creating original video content as well as adding subtitles to its English content in multiple languages. And it’s not just media companies that are doing this. CarWow, a car buying comparison site, uses multiple methods of localization – from subtitles to adding new language voice-overs to its existing content.
What unites both companies and creators that produce content in a single language and those that localize, is the metric they use to measure success: reach. By reaching more people, they hit their secondary goals – ad revenue, brand awareness, customer satisfaction, direct sales etc.
Another common theme between creators and companies with different approaches to growing reach is their careful selection or production of content. Whether aiming to resonate in their home market, other English-speaking territories, or in regions they’re aiming to break into, the audience, their culture and language is not an afterthought. Few companies have Netflix’s means to create production hubs in other countries, so the next best thing is to select content thoughtfully and localize it.
Three ways to localize your content to increase your reach
Traditionally there were two ways to localize your video content. Either create original localized content (costly!) or use traditional dubbing to speak the language of the new audience you’re looking to capture. Today that’s still partially true but there are more accessible ways to take your content global.
Captioning or adding subtitles to videos is now widely available and is brilliant if you want to test out your existing content in new markets. It’s also relatively inexpensive and scalable. The downside is that it can distract from the visual elements of the video, certain nuances and cultural references can get lost, and a proliferation of video content and a widespread culture of dual-screening means viewers often prefer to watch/listen rather than read. Nonetheless, it’s a great starting point to go global and increase your reach using your existing content.
Now you’re speaking their language! Adding quality voice-over to your existing content can really engage your new target audience, and ensure the nuances and cultural references are translated correctly. Traditional methods of voice-overs and dubbing can cost as much, if not more, than producing new content for a new market, which has been one of the key barriers to content owners to taking their existing content global. However, with new tech and AI, like ours at Papercup, on the market millions of content creators and owners are able to localize their content for new global audiences.
3. Original local content
This is the holy grail. If you have the opportunity to either create content locally for a local audience in your new target markets, you have the best chance of going global. But this option is only available to a chosen few with deep pockets, like Netflix.
For everyone else, best to take the lead from Netflix rather than try to replicate its approach. Lessons we can take from the streaming giant are: do your audience research, select or tailor your content thoughtfully and pick your method of localization accordingly. But most of all – test and learn. Select content and your method of localization based on what you know your audiences want instead of what you think it wants. Netflix is proof that it works to challenge assumptions around dubbing and subtitling. And that’s an approach that can be taken up by anyone, cash to splash or not.