Three Global Game-Changers for the Information Industry


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Article ImageBlow up everything you know about content. Today, it's different. Looking back at the last decade and ahead to the next, here are three game-changing opportunities and challenges that, from our perspective at Common Sense Advisory, product planners and marketing managers must engage:

1. Your future entails a hundred languages, give or take. Each year, we publish a rundown of the countries and languages represented by the world's online population. Simplified Chinese, the written form of many Chinese dialects, is now surpassing English as the preferred representation of human language online. Each year, more members of the world's human population enter the online world and become information consumers-but in an increasingly diverse set of languages. In this year's update, our analysis details 57 economically significant languages needed to reach consumers and businesses in 101 countries. Information industry participants that create devices such as computers and handhelds regularly publish in 40 to 80 languages, and that number continues to veer upward. The Firefox web browser can be downloaded in more than 75 language versions, Nokia localizes some of its phone interfaces into more than 80 languages, and Wikipedia hosts articles in more than 200. To successfully move to this level of multilingual publishing, companies must develop a process for adding groups of new languages, not one language at a time-for instance, flipping in one product cycle from 30 languages to 60.

2. The web is a visual medium. More than 1.5 billion people access the internet on a regular basis, sharing and gaining knowledge, skills, and experiences. Cisco reports that within the next few years, 90% of web content will be video content. But that's bytes, really, not content-right? To say the same sentence in video versus text requires orders of magnitude more data. Those of us who grew up in the publishing world inherited a text-based paradigm and regard video as a data-bloated medium. Video is real-because almost all people respond to, comprehend, and appreciate visually based communication. This is biology, so it's pointless to argue or wish otherwise. As children, we learn by mimicry, and this carries over into the rest of our lives. Just try to learn the finer points of golfing or heart surgery by reading a book. Video is less efficient in bytes, but it's more efficient in conveying the human experience. Product and marketing managers must demand video as an integral part of every product or service, from conception of the product itself all the way to promotion, sales, support, and community.

3. Falling translation costs will disrupt the information industry. Whether content is audio, video, gaming, or text, human languages remain an inextricable component of communication. And words spoken, written, sung aloud, or appearing in a video, game, song, advertisement, or wiki article are often in the wrong language for the audience. We believe that a classic business condition, called elasticity of demand, has been an important factor in spending over the past 2 decades. Demand keeps going up because the price of translation keeps falling-due to automation. And it's now reaching a new inflection point as machine translation achieves commercially valuable output. Get ready for a lot more translation happening inside your organization and by your competitors.

Because of online community-based translation, machine translation, and other innovations, the opportunity to create and manage multilingual content in unprecedented volumes changes the definition of content andproduct in information-based industries. Those with business models for consumer product manufacturers and service companies of all stripes need to go back to the proverbial drawing board and rethink how they envision their product, how they bring it to market, and how they promote it. It's now clear that the user community wants to be involved in all of those steps. And people speaking hundreds of languages would join your community and customer base if you opened up to them. What is possible today has never been even imaginable before. Who is the brilliant entrepreneur who will take "hundreds of languages fast and cheap" and create a never-before-conceived-of idea and change the world?