No matter what language you read, it’s clear A.O. Scott had some problems with Fifty Shades of Grey. (“Mr. Dornan has the bland affect of a model, by which I mean a figure made of balsa wood or Lego.”) The movie review from the New York Times film critic is now available in Spanish — one of a handful of stories the paper is now translating on most days. (“Dornan tiene la insípida afectación de un modelo, con lo que quiero decir una figura hecha de madera balsa o de legos.”)
For the past few weeks, the Times has been quietly running those stories in a new “América” section. It’s an eclectic mix, including tech stories on companies pursuing virtual reality, travel pieces, and columnists like Paul Krugman. The corresponding Twitter and Facebook feeds also share Times content in Spanish:
— NYT América (@NYTAmerica) February 12, 2015
It’s all part of a new experiment in translation, according to Lydia Polgreen, the Times’ deputy international editor:
Polgreen declined to comment further on the project, saying they were still in the early stages of the project. But she gave a tease of what was coming in her contribution to Nieman Lab’s Predictions for Journalism 2015 package in December:
We are experimenting with publishing articles in Spanish. Here’s a collection of great NYT stories en español. http://t.co/48NKYBYjwQ
— Lydia Polgreen (@lpolgreen) February 11, 2015
The Times has put substantial effort in recent years into becoming a more global, multilingual company. It’s occasionally translated stories and editorials into Spanish when the subject matter was of particular interest to people in Latin America. (It’s done the same in other languages — recently, Malay.) This Spanish-language project seems different, in that the stories being translated aren’t particularly focused on Hispanic or Latin American issues; recent topics include Ukraine, China, and “Better Call Saul.”
As the editorial lead of an entrepreneurial team trying to figure out how to increase the audience of The New York Times outside of the United States, discovering what people want and when they want it is what I will be spending my time doing next year. I can’t translate every single word of The New York Times into every language. But that’s actually a really good thing, because the future of news will inevitably involve making hard decisions about serving people not just what we think they should know, but what they might like to know — even if they don’t know it.
In 2012, publisher Arthur Sulzberger cites global growth as one of the Times’ four key areas of investment. The following year, the paper brought the International Herald Tribune under the Times brand. And just last month, in a memo to staff outlining plans for 2015, executive editor Dean Baquet said foreign readers are a priority for the paper:
But the paper has had mixed results in trying to extend its reach. In 2012, it launched a Chinese-language version of the Times, with staffers based in China. It didn’t take long for the site to be blocked by the Chinese government following stories about the wealth and power of the country’s former prime minster. (The Times’ last social media outlet within China, its Sina Weibo accounts, were shut down last week.)
Just as The Times found an entirely new market when it became a truly national publication, we now believe there are compelling possibilities in growing our international audience. We are trying to decide which markets to jump into first, and how to go about doing it.
Plans to launch a similar site for Portuguese readers based in Brazil were scuttled.
The Times was also one of the earlier media companies to turn its attention to India, launching India Ink in 2011. The blog was shuttered last year as India coverage was wrapped into the Times broader global report.
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