I’ve been deeply touched by the article of Fred Wilson and wanted to put my own spin on it, given the perspective of the language industry.
If the amount of large deals if evaporating in the VC industry, it is hardly a different story in the language localization industry. Plus, a number of start-ups such as Smartling.com and Ackuna.com are trying to bring down translation/localization prices even further by offering essentially free language translation by volunteers and product evangelists.
1. Prices went down.
As mentioned previously, two major start-ups are trying to disrupt the industry by eliminating middlemen, read translation agencies, and bring a new crowd of linguists – volunteers. This has a detrimental effect on the pricing. Thus, the translation rates went down and most likely stay there.
2. Average project’s size is less.
The demand for translation/localization services is increasing, if to believe Common Sense Advisory [LINK], however, observing the situation myself, I noticed that the average size of a project actually went down by 50% if not more. The times when clients were ordering 50,000+ words projects is gone. I keep hearing “I need to translate just one page” more often lately.
3. Raise of translation widgets.
Right now only a dog doesn’t have a free website translation widget that offers machine translation powered by Bing (Google kicked out the free cheese last year). LSPs use these widgets to attract free traffic and backlinks to improve their search engine rankings.
4. Raise of Hybrid Translation.
My company Translation Cloud was a pioneer with this technology. Basically, we are first to figure out how to build a platform where linguists work on small tasks to proofread machine translations. This has cut rates in half, but cut the quality too. Won’t tell you by how much. Thus, the technology is fresh and needs some honing to compete in full with professionals.
5. Professional Translation still Counts.
No one has build a web platform that can translate EVERYTHING, including complex patents, InDesign brochures and Illustrator logos. Agencies and freelancers still have an edge with it and can demand a decent amount of compensation.
6. Raise of Voice-Over services for Online Video.
As youtube.com growth, so does the demand to make videos with sub-titles in many languages so foreigners can watch them. Those, who really want to go far, re-make videos and convert them to foreign languages with help of professional actors and speakers. Demand for this service grows.
Overall, the industry is in a little bit of limbo. Old things are dying out. New things haven’t picked up. Many clients don’t even know what Hybrid Translation is, and they don’t care. It will take generations for things to crystallize and make sense. We are here for the long term (another 500 years to be precise)