Fiber to Cuba Illuminates Future Opportunity

I wrote an article for Association’s Now earlier this year on the web strategy implications of a more open Cuba. One of the key factors I noted was that Cuba has no fiber optic lines, to the rest of the world, which drastically limits the available bandwidth in the island country. Looks like that may change in a couple years: Miami Firm Plans First U.S.-Cuba Fiber Optic Cable.

If an open Cuba is an opportunity for your organization, then you have a window in which to prepare for making greater connections online with Cuban citizens.

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Your Website is a Gateway to Global Markets

This article from a Harvard Business Publishing blog cites recent studies showing that China may have the worlds largest market for luxury goods in the near future. What caught my eye in the post was this statistic:

And Chinese consumers engage with brands online. Almost 90% of the respondents in the China Luxury Forecast say they use the Internet to gain a better understanding of luxury brands and products. Over 310 million people in China have the Internet, and the world's top blogger in terms of visits is Chinese — Xu Jinglei. In this way, China is very similar to the US in that companies can support their marketing efforts with effective online communication.

Many organizations that I work with have significant global strategies going into action, looking to extend their mission and value across the world. As this story shows, your website is a key platform for engaging with overseas markets even before you have a physical presence or partnership set up in their country.

How well does your web presence address and engage with visitors from your future global markets? It’s not as simple as just translating some content. See this article I wrote last year for more on this topic.

Free Sites May Curtail Use in Developing Countries

This article from the New York Times this week discusses how many advertising supported web sites are challenged by growing numbers of user from developing countries: In Developing Countries, Web Grows Without Profit.

Web companies that rely on advertising are enjoying some of their most vibrant growth in developing countries. But those are also the same places where it can be the most expensive to operate, since Web companies often need more servers to make content available to parts of the world with limited bandwidth. And in those countries, online display advertising is least likely to translate into results.

This intractable contradiction has become a serious drag on the bottom lines of photo-sharing sites, social networks and video distributors like YouTube. It is also threatening the fervent idealism of Internet entrepreneurs, who hoped to unite the world in a single online village but are increasingly finding that the economics of that vision just do not work.

According to the article, some companies are offering, or considering, scaled back services to these audiences to limit bandwidth costs for low profit traffic.

This is an interesting consideration for web strategy when your desired web audiences include people in developing countries. You may not be able to leverage or rely on free services that are funded through advertising to spread your message and build engagement abroad outside the developed world. You may have to develop your own channels with which to do so if this trend continues.

The Dangerous Seas of Machine Translation

Wes Trochlil pointed me to an article in which he was quoted that has suffered from round trip machine translation. The original article was in English, translated to something else and then back to English in this version. According to the article now, Wes has received his first naval commission, becoming Admiral of Effective Database Management.

Round trip machine translation such as this exaggerates the errors but shows very well why automated translation simply doesn’t cut it for critical content. It’s good enough to get a sense of what the text is about but if your content is important enough to translate for key audiences then it is important enough to do so with qualified human translators. They may be assisted by automated software but still add their critical value to the process.

If this topic is relevant to your web efforts, check out my article Web Design Implications for Translated Web Sites.

International Audiences

The few bright spots in the earning reports for American companies these days are those who are making gains in international markets. The up swing in profits from abroad is offsetting declines in their domestic markets.

This underlines the growing importance of international audiences for web sites. You need to identify the specific business outcomes you hope to achieve with them and then create sites that focus on that in a way that works for those people from abroad.

In communicating across borders with a web site, there are three criteria you can use to evaluate each audience.

1. Language. If your site communicates with business people and/or professionals, do they speak the native lanaguage of your web site in day-to-day business? If so, you may be able to get away without translating. If not, look at what language will work best for each audience.

2. Transactions. If you collect data or conduct ecommerce transactions via your site, what impact will different international audiences have on the fields you use? Are there privacy laws and regulations you will need to comply with? Again, look at similarlities and differences across all of your international audiences.

3. Culture. This is the tough one. Look for cultural similarities and differences among your international audiences. Do they respond the same way to the same imagery? Is your humorous ad campaign in the home country highly offensive in others? Cross-cultural analysis and testing will help to reveal issues such as this.

Assessing these three characteristics among your international audience and against your home-country web presence will help you to identify which audiences can get by with your existing presence and which may need highly tailored efforts to support them and your desired outcomes.

Example of Cultural Localization in Print Media

An article in today’s NYT’s business section provides a great example of culturally localizing and delivering products with an existing global brand: Western Magazines Find a Receptive Audience in India.

Most of the new Western magazines being published in India are not really Western at all — they are written, photographed, edited and designed almost completely in India. Many are published under licensing agreements with the media company that owns the name. Even though they are all published in English, their content may be completely different from their American or British counterparts.

While the name may be familiar to an American reader, the flavor is distinctly Indian. Instead of Heloise’s syndicated household hints column, for example, Good Housekeeping runs “Ask Mrs. Singh.” This month, Mrs. Singh tackles how to keep your home fresh during the monsoons that sweep through India during the summer (rubber mats and fresh flowers help).

This very same approach should be considered with your online media as well. Are your existing products, services, marketing, content and design applicable to your desired international audiences? Are you offering articles about desert living to people currently being soaked by a monsoon? It is often tempting to just build a one-size fits all approach online but that rarely maximizes your results.

David Gammel's 2008 Summer Teleconference Series

I am conducting three teleconferences this summer on a variety of topics that have been in high demand with my consulting and speaking clients. I hope you’ll join us!

I will cover the following topics during the series:

  • Creating High-value Partnerships with Technology Providers
  • Using the Web for Customer-sourced Innovation
  • Global Web Site Strategy

The live calls are absolutely free to attend. You also have the option to purchase recordings of all the calls if you would prefer to listen to them at your own convenience. Anyone who purchases the recordings will also receive access to a bonus teleconference.

The first call is Friday June 20. Register today!

Web Design Implications for Translated Web Sites

I have posted an article on the web design and architecture implications of content translation.

Translating web content sounds straight forward on the surface: identify a few key pages, translate them into French, English, Spanish and Chinese and you are done! Successfully supporting your outcomes with translated content requires a more thorough approach however. This white paper discusses various aspects of how to effectively translate and deploy web-based content. (More…)

Going Global by Going Small?

Data from the end of 2007 show that about 20% of the world’s population have access to the Internet while around 50% have cell phones.

What does this imply for how potential customers will be viewing your site, especially in the developing part of the world where cellular networks leapfrog land lines? Checked your site in a cell phone browser lately?

Relatedly, below are the slides from the presentation on global web strategy I gave last week at ASAE’s International Conference. Thanks to the 100+ people in the session. Great audience with very good questions. Also, my thanks to the SHRM contingent for playing along in a surprise case study of their efforts!

Feel free to contact me if you have questions about addressing international audiences with your web presence.

Internet Disruptions and Global Web Audiences

Several undersea telecommunications cables were cut in the Middle East/South Asia region last week. Networks from Egypt to India were impacted, creating very slow to broken connections. Outsource operations in India were a big concern but the large players had alternate connections available as part of their disaster response.

There has been a lot of speculation as to how the cables were cut and no ships have been identified yet in the areas where the cables were severed. John Robb posted today about how cutting undersea cables is a viable strategy for small groups to execute in a system disruption campaign.

All of which made me think about organizations who address a global audience via their web sites. If Robb is right, this kind of disruption could be become more frequent. If you have a large audience for your site outside your own region, you should consider how to ameliorate this risk in advance.

What could you do? The main thing I can think of is to distribute the hosting of your web sites around the globe, either by maintaining mirrored sites or deploying localized sites in their target regions. Locally deployed sites in key regions would provide you with continued service to those audiences even if they are disconnected from the Internet as a whole for a period of time. This is a non-trivial effort but if serving global audiences is a key part of achieving your goals, it could be a good investment against future disruption and associated losses.