Untapped opportunity: Spanish-language content


One in a series of Executive Insights looking at the challenges and opportunities for publishers in 2012.

Usually when publishers ask me what the biggest growth opportunity in content is, I tell them to run A/B tests in order to increase conversions on their paywalls and email opt-in forms. You’ll increase your results by 20-60% and, yes, we’ve got the case studies to prove it. 

But, for whatever reason, although online-founded titles such as Ancestry.com and Audible have relied on conversion testing for more than a decade, traditional publishers are sluggish to consider it.

So this year I’m going to stop blowing the testing trumpet to unwilling ears, and focus on the next big opportunity in line: Spanish-language versions of your website for U.S. consumers.

As Match.com’s U.S. Spanish-language offering has proven, Hispanic consumers are surfing the Web and will get their credit cards out to pay for services and content. This fall, a number of major brands began to follow suit, including Hulu, Cosmo and even FTD.

Demographically, U.S. Hispanics who prefer to consume online content in Spanish are often older and wealthier than the norm.  They may also own their own local businesses.  Although their children or grandchildren may be happiest surfing in English, many in the older generation prefer their native language for everything from health information to investing advice.

The good news, as NPR has reported, is that American publishers’ Spanish-language sites have an easier time achieving high search rankings than the same content in English. For now at least, the competition isn’t there.  In fact, U.S. consumers are disconcerted to find the only Spanish-language search results for fairly popular search terms are of sites located in other countries.  If a U.S. competitor existed, the chances Google, Bing et al would boost it in the rankings is fairly high.

If you’re considering a Spanish-language launch, however, beware of two common mistakes:

1. Bait and switch: Don’t add a thin layer of translated pages on the front of your site that then click through to English-language content.  If you want to limit your R&D investment, instead pick a site section or micro-topic and translate all of the pages just for that section or topic. 

2. Bad translations: Use professional human translators (never an automated system, no matter how good you’re told it is) with a specific background in the type of Spanish you’re seeking – for example, Mexican Spanish and European Spanish differ in subtle but important ways. Best bet: Ask people in your target market to evaluate samples before you pick a translation service.

Good luck and prospero feliz año Nuevo!

Anne Holland is the publisher of Paywall Times, a free news service for paid content and membership site executives.

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