25 January 2016

Big content: Emerging challenges and solutions

According to Copyblogger 'content marketing'
means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.
I went looking for a broader definition, but this will do for the moment.

'Big content' is, obviously enough, content on a large scale.

Like many of the blogs, websites, ebooks and more previously mentioned in these pages, publications like 101 Things a Translator Needs to Know and A French-English Glossary of Naval Technology target smaller language service teams catering for "high-end" clients with small- to medium-scale needs. The solutions are good, but they lack the scalability to meet the needs of big content clients.
Sure, the big translation companies have long claimed to meet these needs, but high-end teams have consistently found that this cannot be achieved without compromising on quality.
Recently, I have observed a groundswell of initiatives to improve the quality of the language services offered to big content clients.
As far as I can determine, the movement is being led by language service providers targeting corporations with big content needs including new approaches source texts in English and translation, transcreation and localisation into several or even many languages at once.
The signs include: (i) Watch Your Tone!, Why Your Company's Tone of Voice Matters and How to Get it Right, (ii) Speak with One Voice, How to Gain Competitive Advantage in the Content Era (register here to download for free), (iii) the Acrolinx Content Optimization Platform and (iv) the Microsoft Manual of Style for technical communicators. (Hardly what you'd call a broad survey, but at least these are concrete examples.)

Although this is not my field — I like to consider myself a small-time supplier catering for a niche market defined by one language pair, one direction and a small cluster of technologies and clients that I believe I understand pretty well — I nevertheless want to record the following observations and comments:
  • First, referring to items i and ii, it's always good to see good writing about good writing.
  • Second, while high-end suppliers have long tried to work closely with their clients to improve the quality of both source- and target-language documents, I have not previously observed a success comparable to that revealed by the way the new Microsoft style guide has adopted the concept of 'voice'.
  • If Microsoft can get in-house and contract communication teams to apply the English-language version of its new style guide, we can look forward to a radical improvement in the quality of Microsoft translations.
  • Scalability remains the big challenge. All of the high-end language service teams I've worked with have consistently found it exceedingly difficult to recruit staff with the mother-tongue writing skills combined with subject knowledge and translation skills to meet big content challenges. It will be interesting to see if the new wave of trend leaders can do better.
  • The challenge of selling the concept of voice as applied to target-language documents is many times larger than that of selling the concept for source-language content creation in English. The fact that Acrolinx has so far failed to reply to the question raised in Acrolinx #3 below suggests that they too may have underestimated the challenge.

1 comment:

  1. On 26 January, Andrew Bredenkamp, Founder & CEO of Acrolinx, replied as follows (posted here with Andrew's permission):

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for your interest in what we do.

    Although I am originally from the UK, it took us long time to get interest in what we do there. :-) I am not really sure why that was, and in the last 18 months we are suddenly very busy in my “home” market. But, as you suspected, most of our focus is on the US market, since that is where most of our EN customers are.

    For German, it is true that the global trend to a more conversational style is slower to catch on that it has been in the English-speaking world. But it is nevertheless definitely happening. Our software is capable of making very fine-grained decisions about use of pronouns, and the like.

    We don’t spend much time trying to convince companies that they should change the way they write, but when they decide they want to change (or do a better job of doing what they’ve always wanted to do) we help them make it happen.

    I hope that helps.

    BTW, FWIW (etc.) I began my life as a translator.

    Andrew Bredenkamp, PhD.
    Founder & CEO


Full circle

After completing a BSc in physics and maths in Australia and extended travels in Africa I found a job in Paris that left me with considerab...