Translation Portals and the Little Guy

A few months back I wrote an article for Multilingual Computing about large translation vendors launching translation portals. I profiled Berlitz and Bowne, and right about the time the article came out, Bowne went out and bought the Berlitz translation division. I wondered if another large vendor would step in to fill the competitive void and today see that SDL has launched its own translation portal, Click2Translate.

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I’m quite bullish on translation portals. They offer large vendors a chance to target smaller clients by offering lower prices (on average) than the smaller translation vendors. I’m not as bullish on the fate of smaller translation vendors. As large vendors start competing for smaller and smaller slices of the translation market, we will see continued consolidation within the industry.

Consolidation is a good thing, if you are the one coming out on top. My advice to the small players: specialize! Specialize on industry, project type, whatever. But pick a niche and make it your own. Small vendors cannot compete with large vendors on price so they need to find other ways to compete. And they will. For example, in my neighborhood there is the Brookline Booksmith, an independent bookstore that competes quite nicely against the big guys. I go out of my way to shop there, even it means paying a few bucks extra. I love the place. Small translation vendors can also compete against the big guys, but they have to pick battles they can win. And as long as we see more and more translation portals taking hold, price is going to be one battle not worth fighting.

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