Why is translation important in media?

June 13, 2022

Translation is important if you want to communicate with people who don´t speak your language. While this is a noble goal, the question remains how translations should be financed. The answer leads to the business model of the entity that needs translations.

Publishing houses need translations because they cannot sell a Japanese book profitably in Germany unless it is translated into German. The same applies to software publishers, who translate their products if they think customers will be more inclined to buy the software if it is translated. In both examples, companies generate revenues from selling their products, be it on a per-item base in the case of books or on a subscription base in the case of software.

The best-known example of a subscription-based business model in the media space are of course streaming platforms, such as Netflix, Disney and Apple. They generate revenue by charging a monthly subscription fee to consumers. Other portals such as Filmin or YouTube allow users also to watch content on demand, that is, they charge per movie.

Then there are media companies that offer free content, where the user becomes the product. In other words, the more traffic a site can attract and the more they know about their users, the more advertisers are willing to pay for advertising on this site. Consequently, media companies are charging advertisers, not users. The more potential users you have, the more traffic can be generated, and the more valuable a site becomes for advertisers.

No matter what your business model is, GTU can help you reach more customers by providing the following:

  • Content creation
  • Translation
  • Proofreading of 3rd party content
  • Subtitling
  • Quality Control
  • Workflow automation for Continuous Localization scenarios

Return on Investment

When companies invest in translation, they expect a measurable return in order to justify their investment. The cost for translation can sometimes look expensive, however, it should always be evaluated from the perspective of enabling sales. In fact, every market has it´s own revenue potential and what’s more, this potential can change over time.

The following fictitious graphic serves to illustrate this:

In this fictitious example, the Spanish ROI is best, perhaps because of seasonal changes, demographics or because of strategic changes in online marketing. The important point here is that the cost of translation remains more or less stable and predictable, while the revenue that can be achieved with translated content, can skyrocket:

After all, if you are a manufacturer, your ROI will increase when you increase the number of units sold, and if your business model is based on advertising, your ROI will increase when traffic to your site increases. Both goals can be achieved by making the addressable market larger, for example by translating your content. It´s important to note that translation costs are unlikely to go up significantly in proportion to your revenue.

Something unexpected

Apart from increasing sales, there is an unexpected social and educational benefit of translating media content, particularly subtitles. Scholars believe that subtitles can help to learn a foreign language more efficiently.

Each country handles this differently by the way. While Germany and Spain dub virtually everything, countries such as Portugal and Poland provide subtitles in many cases. Poland even uses a special form of voice-over, where a Polish voice talent speaks (“impersonates”) all original actors, while the original audio track is still audible at a lower volume.


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