Asia is home to 40% of the Earth's internet users and China alone has almost a third more people online than the US. With the internet population growing at a greater rate in developing and emerging markets than in the West, the opportunities for marketers and movie-makers to tap previously untapped markets are significant. From search engines and subtitling to multilingual VSEO, here's a beginner's guide to marketing your digital video online to the global masses.
YouTube as an International Video Search Engine
Depending on where you live in the world, the top search engines are basically: Google, Yahoo/ Bing, AOL, Ask…and then you can take your pick from Baidu in China and a whole host of other local search engines 'round your neck of the woods.
YouTube is one of the top three most popular search engines in many countries on Earth.
And before you say it, YouTube may be a video-sharing website, an online video repository and even a social network… but it IS a search engine too – people use YouTube's engine to search for videos.
Web Video in Developing Countries
Looking at the often-cited developing markets of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China), YouTube attains a rather lofty fourth place in Brazil according to Alexa's traffic ranking scale, behind Google but ahead of Yahoo! and Live.com. And it's a similar story in Russia and India too, where YouTube is the third most popular search engine. With YouTube banned in China, it doesn't stand much of a chance, but local equivalents such as Youku and Tudou rank 10th and 13th respectively.
All this points to one thing: online digital video knows no boundaries. Anyone from Bangladesh to Boston can access your carefully crafted clips, whether it's a minute-long 'how to' snippet on your company's YouTube channel, or a feature-length animation streaming from your personal website.
Indie-film expert Reed Martin, author of 'The Reel Truth', suggests that dubbing your independent flick into Portuguese, Russian, Hindi and Mandarin will stand any film-maker in good stead in terms of targeting viewers, given that the BRIC countries are among the fastest growing markets for digital video: nearly a billion people are expected to be online across these countries by 2015.
Video Dubbing vs. International Subtitling
Big companies with big marketing budgets can pay big bucks to have their digital videos fully localized for their target audience – this will involve remaking a video for each market, including local actors, voiceover artists and perhaps even a rewritten script to cater for local cultures. But there's a good chance you'll be struggling to gather the funds to make your video in the first place, let alone worrying about a full adaptation – and this is where dubbing and subtitling comes into play.
Dubbing is an expensive endeavor though, once you factor in the transcription and translation costs in addition to the voiceover artists and the time-consuming 'lip-syncing' processes. And without wishing to generalize, one could argue that most people actually prefer subtitles – lip-syncing is never perfect and it can appear a little tacky at times.
Subtitling is cost-effective and something you can do yourself…and if you've got the original script, you have a couple of options for generating passable subtitles.
Google Translate understandably gets a raw deal, but machine translation has improved considerably in recent years. You can copy/paste your script into Google Translate, have your translated text ready in seconds and then upload the subtitles to your video, so that users in other countries can select their subtitles of choice. If you have some funds at your disposal, you can even pay for a translator to proofread the subtitles for accuracy, which is less expensive than a full-blown translation.
However, if you don't speak the language, you may have difficulty syncing the subtitles to the speech so that they correspond.
A second, and perhaps better, option if you're using YouTube is to make full use of its in-built 'auto-translate' feature. Essentially, you create your English-language captions and subtitles, and YouTube automatically takes care of the rest, giving viewers the option to view the subtitles in dozens of languages.
It's also worth noting, however, that whether you opt for dubbing or subtitling will depend on your target market. If you're looking to target a country with a high-level of illiteracy, then subtitles may be pointless. In this instance, dubbing may be your only option if you want viewers to understand your video.
Seeing is Believing: Limit Speech
The less speech you have in your digital video the better…if you want to appeal to a large global demographic for minimal effort. Mr. Bean has proven to be immensely popular in hundreds of countries, simply because very little speech is used.
This will obviously depend on the nature of your video. If you can demonstrate/illustrate your message with images and music and without vocals, this will minimize the need for translation later on.
Developing Countries = Need for Speed
Internet users in the West are used to high-speed internet connections with 20mbps+ slowly becoming the norm. But some developing countries are still getting by on slower connection speeds. This means, you may want to consider exporting low-res versions of your video which will play a lot better in areas where high-speed broadband is still to arrive.
International Video Optimization & Localization
Even if someone isn't using YouTube to search for an item, videos often show up in standard search results on the likes of Google.
Optimizing your video for video-sharing websites – sorry, search engines – such as YouTube, is much the same as Google. Except, you obviously can't optimize the content of the video, which is why the video description and tags are vital, as is using keywords in the video title.
There are countless articles online that cover the topic of SEO for video, so I'll focus more on the multilingual aspect of VSEO here.
Whilst machine translation tools such as Google Translate are just about good enough for translating standard text, keywords must be researched from scratch for each language and dialect.
Even a professionally qualified, native translator won't be enough – they won't know what search terms people use to search for content locally. People may not use a direct translation to search, they may use abbreviations, synonyms or acronyms – Google AdWords' local Keyword Tool will help identify what terms people actually use to search for content in each country.
Furthermore, dialects can vary between countries that speak the same language. For example, the word for 'car' is coche in Spain, but in some Latin American countries coche means a 'baby-stroller'. It's also worth noting that UK readers might not know what a baby-stroller is, as they would be more likely to use a pram or pushchair.
The point is, if you're targeting a specific demographic with your video, you need to use the correct descriptive tags for your market – just because you learn Spanish in Madrid doesn't mean you're qualified to correctly describe a video's content for Columbia.
And even if you're only targeting English-speaking countries, it's worth being wary of some of the dialectal differences between the UK, US, Canada, Australia etc.
So there you have it – some simple steps for crafting your online video for international audiences.
About Our Expert Guest – Christian Arno
Christian Arno is founder of Lingo24, a global translation and localization company that offers transcription, subtitling and voiceover services. With clients in over sixty countries and 130 full-time employees across the globe, Lingo24 is on course for a turnover of $6m USD in 2010.