Companies are blogging less and that’s a mistake

An interesting study courtesy of the Society for New Communications Research:

Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes has been studying corporate communications strategies of the Fortune 500 for the past eight years. Key findings include:

  • Twenty-one percent of the Fortune 500 has a corporate blog (103 corporations) (21%); a decrease of 10% from 2014.
  • Twitter is more popular than Facebook with the Fortune 500 (78% vs 74%).
  • Glassdoor (87%) has joined LinkedIn (93%) as a popular business tool.
  • The use of Instagram has increased by 13%. A total of 33% of the Fortune 500 having an Instagram presence, pointing to a continued growth in interest in visually rich platforms.

I have noticed that fewer companies are publishing blogs these days — particularly globally. I view this as a missed opportunity, though I understand why it is happening. Creating  content that people actually want to read is hard work. It’s not as sexy as chasing the latest new social network, like Snapchat or Instagram.

Blogs, well produced, can be an amazing source of leads, search engine traffic and customer engagement — even with mobile users. And if you support blogs across a variety of languages you will only multiply the traffic you receive.

I’m not suggesting that companies not support Twitter, Instagram, etc. In fact, blogs provide foundational content for Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.

One company still invested in blogs (and other content) is Capgemini:

capgemini_blogs

And here is an excerpt from the German site — local-language blogs:

capgemini_de

 

Perhaps I’m a bit biased about blogs, as I’ve been writing this one for more than a decade.

But I suspect companies will one day come full circle on this.

After all, everything old is new again…

You can download the full research report here.

 

 

Wikipedia and the Internet language chasm

When talking about language diversity across the Internet, I like to include a visual that illustrates the language leaders of the Internet:

Language leaders of the Internet 2014

This chart is based on data from the 2014 Web Globalization Report Card. English (US) is not counted.

In it, you have Wikipedia at the top, supporting more than 280 languages.Wikipedia represents (for now) the high-water mark for linguistic diversity on a website. It’s a fascinating benchmark because people are not paid to create content; what you see reflects user initiative (as well as factors such as Internet and computer penetration).

I was interested to see this quote in Motherboard:

There are 533 proposals for Wikipedia languages in incubator stage, more than twice the number of actual Wikipedias, but Kornai estimates no more than a third of them will ever get the required minimum of at least five active users and get enough pages to make it onto Wikipedia proper.

So it’s feasible we could the see the number of languages on Wikipedia double in the years ahead — though the article stresses that languages are in fact dying as a result of the Internet (a topic for a future blog post).

To the left of Wikipedia we have Google Search with support for more than 140 languages. However, this number reflects only the Google Search interface; most Google services (such as YouTube and Gmail) support fewer than 60 languages.

Next you have global companies such as Toyota and DHL and Panasonic, which support roughly 41-42 languages on their websites.

For most companies, 40 languages is a goal they cannot even imagine reaching. The average number of languages supported by the websites in the Report Card is 28 — which reflects only the leading global companies and brands.

Average number of languages supported by leading global websites

Most companies are happy if they support five or more languages on their websites.

So what does this data mean? To me, it means that there is a profound gap between possible number of languages a website can support (Wikipedia) and the practical number of languages that most websites currently support. By practical, I’m referring to the limited budgets that companies commit to professional translation.

Now, to the far right of the chart is Google Translate — with support for roughly 80 languages. Now here is where things get interesting, because machine translation (warts and all) supports a vastly greater number of languages than the Fortune 500 (or 50 for that matter)

google_translate_2014

That’s not to say that companies shouldn’t continue to invest in professional translation — indeed they should.

But machine translation has a  disruptive role to play in helping to overcome the language chasm. 

WhatsApp: Another “translation worthy” success story

I wrote recently that if you can make your product “translation worthy” the world will follow.

Reading about Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp I went back and did some language crunching.

WhatsApp Arabic

In December 2012, WhatsApp supported 15 languages. I also noted then that I really liked the company’s global gateway.

WhatsApp Language Growth

Today, WhatsApp supports 35 languages — thanks in large part (or entirely) to a crowd of volunteer translators.

WhatsApp crowdsourcing

This number of languages is now well above the average number of languages tracked in the Web Globalization Report Card.

Clearly, WhatsApp proved itself to be translation worthy.

And now, with Facebook involved, I would not be surprised to see WhatsApp double its language count over the next year or two. Perhaps WhatsApp will actually start paying for translation now…