English Really is a Second Language


Japanese Apple adEnglish is a minority language–at least in the blogosphere. For advertisers interested in non-English contextual advertising, this might be good news. For non-English advertisers, it might also be old news, so I apologize if you’ve heard this before. Regardless, here are some things you may not have considered:

Yesterday, Technorati founder and CEO David Sifry posted his State of the Blogosphere Part 2, which details the linguistic breakdown of all blog posts tracked by the Technorati blog search engine. According to Sifry, more than two-thirds of all blog posts are in a language other than English, the most blogged language being Japanese, with English a close second.

Of the big three contextual advertising services–Google’s AdSense, Yahoo’s Publisher Network, and MSN’s AdCenter–, only AdSense is out of beta and currently serves non-English ads. That means that there is an ever-increasing market for non-English, blog-centric advertising, and little competition aside from Google and domestic advertising services. I may sound like a fortune cookie, but any U.S. contextual ad network wishing to expand internationally should probably do so now while the door of opportunity is open.

Something for non-English blog advertisers to consider is blog cultural differences. According to David, Japanese bloggers tend to write shorter but more frequent posts. He suggests that this may be because Japanese bloggers tend to post from their mobile phones. I have no idea if that’s true or not. But if it is, blog advertisers should anticipate greater contextual keyword variations on Japanese blogs (more posts = more frequently changing content), and might want to think about adding tools that allow bloggers to handle advertising through a mobile platform.

Dave points out the limitations of the Technorati language data. While Technorati tracks 37.3 million blogs, it doesn’t currently index some of the largest Korean blogging networks. The language data also only refers to the language that a blog is written in, and doesn’t consider the blog’s country of origin. The English language blogs may come from any number of countries where English is spoken, whether they be the United States, the UK, Canada, or Australia. Dave also notes that the frequency of Japanese blog posts might be giving them a bigger piece of the pie. Regardless, given the social nature of many non-western cultures, it’s certainly reasonable to assume that the majority of blog posts out there are non-English.

By language breakdown, English is about equal to Chinese, with 25% of blog posts each. However, Chinese blog growth seems to be slowing. Dave also mentions that various language groups seem to have an affinity for one particular blogging service over another. Livejournal hosts a large number of Russian bloggers and MSN Spaces hosts a large number of Chinese ones. That means that foreign language advertisers might want to learn what blogging services are used by their target demographic and plan their campaigns accordingly.

The international nature of blogs not only emphasizes how wide the market is for contextual advertising, but it also points out the deeply personal nature of a blog. Most blogs are not Engadget, just like all bloggers are not Jason Calacanis. While many of the blogs out there touch on business issues, most of them are non-professional websites created by single individuals. You don’t need venture capital to start a blog. Actually, you only need about $10 bucks to start your own, or $0 to use one of the many free blogging services out there. That means that the whole world of web publishing is accessible not only to whining high-schoolers, but also to individuals who don’t have the benefit of a Western-style income. And according to David’s data, the non-English blog market is growing just as fast, if not faster, than the growth rate of blogging itself.


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