Translation and Localization Tips for Publishers

This is a guest post from Christian Arno, founder of Lingo24, a global translation service. I asked Christian to provide some tips for publishers looking to expand their presence in international markets. – Adam

To reach an overseas readership online publishers must ensure that they properly localize their content. Here are a few issues to consider when localizing an online newspaper or magazine.


One of the pivotal processes when localizing your online publication is ensuring the content is properly translated.

Depending on your budget there are a couple of ways you can go about this. If your budget is limited you could use an online translation service like Google Translate. These services give fairly acceptable results but there is a risk that your translated copy will contain errors and inconsistencies. Which, let’s face it, won’t reflect well on you.

The only way to be sure you have a completely accurate translation is to use a professional translator. They will also be able to help you maintain the style, tone and voice of your publication.

Your editorial tone may well be an important factor in the success of your online publication so you want to be sure it persists when your content is translated.

Internationalize before you localize

Before attempting to localize your online publication you should make sure it is properly internationalized.

What does this involve? Basically it is the process of ensuring that your website is consistent with international standards by ensuring that the widest range of character sets are supported and ensuring that any regional settings are not hard-coded. Unicode’s UTF-8 for your text is a good starting point.

This preparatory work will ensure the localization process runs smoothly. LISA (The Localization Industry Standards Association) states that proper internationalization can save money: “Anecdotal evidence from many, many people over the years consistently indicates that proper internationalization reduces the cost of subsequent localization by about 50% and reduces the time needed for localization by about half.”

Localize images

As well as ensuring your written content is properly translated you may need to do some work to ensure your images, video and other visual content is localized. If your publication uses a lot of ‘people’ imagery it is important that it properly reflects the people of the country you are publishing in.

For example, if you are publishing a magazine about human resources management it might seem odd to readers in Japan if all the images depict European workers.

Add local content

Many publications will syndicate the major features and articles from their most important journalists across all their websites, which makes their publication consistent across different regions and helps to establish an international brand. However, they can also provide some regional content that is only available to local readers. This helps to engage readers within the target region and adds an element of trust and familiarity.

The amount of local content you can provide will depend on your resources and if you have access to any local journalists. Even if you don’t have local staff you could use freelancers or source content from local news agencies.

Cultural differences

When you publish your online newspaper or magazine in other countries you need to be aware of cultural differences. These can include different attitudes to moral and ethical issues, political opinions and attitudes towards power and authority.
Even seemingly mundane things like the way numerical data is formatted need to be considered. For example, some parts of the world prefer imperial weights and measures (e.g. pounds, ounces, feet and inches), whereas elsewhere the metric system (e.g. kilograms, grams, metres, centimetres) is the norm.

And whilst the UK and US would structure a number like this: 1,000,000.00, many parts of Europe (e.g. Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Sweden), would write it like this: 1.000.000,00. Indeed, some countries (e.g. France, Croatia, Poland and Finland) don’t use any thousands separator at all and would write it thus: 1 000 000.00.

Beware of local laws

All journalists and editors must be well versed in the laws of their own country to avoid issues of libel, defamation, copyright, sub judice, censorship and the like.

Equally when you are localizing your online newspaper or magazine you must ensure that you are acting within the laws of the regions you are publishing in. For example, some countries have far stricter rules on censorship and free speech than others. If your publication has a political bent you must ensure that you are not infringing these types of rules.

Using social media

Social media is now an integral part of most online publications. When you are localizing your newspaper or magazine make sure you are using social media appropriately for the region you are targeting.

This means researching which social networks are popular within the region. For example, while Facebook and Twitter dominate the USA and many other Western countries, in China the most popular networks are and Russia likes whilst Brazil has a slight leaning towards Orkut.

Once you have established which networks to target for your promotional activity make sure you are aware of local social media etiquette and which marketing techniques work.

You should now have an idea of the planning and research that is required to take your online magazine or newspaper to an overseas readership. It’s not an over-complicated process and is easily achievable, even if your resources are limited.

Christian Arno is founder of global translation service and localization company Lingo24. With 150 full-time employees working across three continents, and clients in over sixty countries, Lingo24 achieved a turnover of $8m USD in 2010.


  1. says

    Yeah, news publishers should definitely consider these facilities to reach global audience. However, I think websites that have global popularity would have already adopted translating code options facilities enabled according to the region/country. Aren’t they?

  2. says

    Mark, a lot of US magazine publishers are still just beginning to develop country-specific sites for other markets. Some have sister sites in other English speaking countries but a good portion have not moved into foreign language markets, or at least not significantly. So lately I’ve been seeing a lot of questions about the best way to approach this.

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