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From Nieman Reports: The powers and perils of news personalization
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June 16, 2010, 10 a.m.

Gooooooooaaaal, in any language: Boston Globe uses Google Translate to expand its soccer blog’s reach

How do you make the most of World Cup fever? If you’re the Boston Globe, you think…well, globally. Boston.com‘s soccer blog, Corner Kicks, has integrated Google Translate into its user interface: click a button, select a language — from Afrikaans and Azerbaijani to Welsh and Yiddish — and the blog’s text will be translated for you, instantly.

For example, in Spanish:

The insta-translation is one way to extend the blog’s — and, by extension, the newspaper’s — reach, says David Beard, Boston.com’s editor. “I love it,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity for us to bring people into the tent.”

A polyglot blog, Beard points out, allows the Globe to leverage both depth and breadth: to find new audiences both in local communities and around the world. The fact that Corner Kicks can now, with essentially a single click, be translated into Spanish means not only that the Globe can easily reach new readers in Spain or Mexico or the Philippines…but also that it can reach new readers in Lawrence, the Boston-area town with a large community of Spanish speakers. Same deal with Portuguese and Framingham. Same deal with Vietnamese and downtown Boston.

That said, the automated translation service — though steadily improving — isn’t perfect. To integrate Google Translate is to integrate an experimental feature on the Globe website. And that’s “going to rub some people the wrong way on the perfectionist-slash-iteration divide in American newsrooms,” Beard allows. As he put it in an editor’s note introducing the new feature:

To our readers,

We’ve added a translation feature to the Corner Kicks blog to assist readers who may be more comfortable reading another language.

Google Translate is not perfect — we’re aware of that — but it is quite good at getting the main points of the story across. We’ve successfully used it on The Big Picture, Boston.com’s extremely popular world photography site. I’d be eager to hear your feedback on its use in Corner Kicks, in whatever language.

David Beard, Editor, Boston.com
beard@boston.com

Still, though, the translation is “fairly good, I think,” Beard points out — at least for many of the languages most relevant to the Boston area. (Beard is fluent in Spanish, and speaks some Portuguese.) And besides, its integration ultimately “allows a greater number of people access to our content.”

And that fact alone, from both the business and editorial perspectives, is vuvuzela-worthy.

POSTED     June 16, 2010, 10 a.m.
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