International expansion without colonial overtones

“Geography, after all, is just one very imperfect proxy for who we are and what we want to read and consume.”

So much of the conversation about media internationalization and global expansion uses a lot of conquest language and colonialist overtones — and sometimes not even subtly:

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetHow The New York Times plans to conquer the world

Mic, the millennial-run news outlet that caters to millennials, is looking to conquer Europe

Netflix’s Grand, Daring, Maybe Crazy Plan to Conquer the World

How Pinterest Must Adapt to Conquer Global Markets

Not coincidentally, the dominant narrative around the global expansion of media companies focuses on business opportunities and scale, and is mostly one-way (“we’re bringing something to them“). We tend to overlook the most important elements of all this work: people, their stories, and their cultures.

In 2017, efforts by media outlets to enter new markets will continue, but they’ll be more nuanced, refocus on the people, and be more interested in what’s happening in these countries — not simply because of new advertising opportunities. Geography, after all, is just one very imperfect proxy for who we are and what we want to read and consume.

Exchanging conquest for understanding means we’ll relate to and see the individual and the communities beyond the broad strokes of a “new audience.”

The easiest way to tell people about my job is that I get to share the best of BuzzFeed with the world. What that initially meant was taking the best of our content, mostly in English, and making that available to audiences around the world through translation. What that means now, a year in, is taking the best of anything we publish, in any language, format, or platform from any of BuzzFeed’s 12 global editions and sharing it with the world.

There have always been foreign correspondents and translation — that’s not new. What’s different now is that digital publishing has given us the tools for real-time news, faster data and feedback loops, and ways to distribute globally more cheaply and easily. Now there’s not just foreign reporting for U.S. audiences, but local stories initially written for a local audience that are also adaptable for and relevant to a global audience.

For example, if you weren’t listening to Brazilians or didn’t get their sense of humor, it would have been easy to miss the story about why people think Brazil’s interim president, Michel Temer, worships Satan and how people can’t stop vomiting on Temer’s Facebook page.

millie-tran-brazil-temer

In the traditional model of media expansion, if you were newly targeting a French audience, you would probably focus on stories you’re already doing that people in France might be interested in. But what about paying attention to what your potential French audience is reacting to or already talking about? This photo of a girl’s new manicure sparked baffled French responses, was quickly shared in English, then in Spanish, German, Portuguese, and Japanese.

And not to be forgotten, last year Germany brought us the most memetacular broken door.

millie-tran-predix-german-door

If we do our jobs right, global expansion won’t be a one-way street to cultural imperialism anymore. Instead of exclusively using translation as a means to gain new audiences and expand globally, translation would be the beginning of a two-way bridge to sharing the best of each country with the world.

Millie Tran is director of global adaptation at BuzzFeed.

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Anita Zielina   The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Lam Thuy Vo   The primary source in the age of mechanical multiplication

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   News after advertising may look like news before advertising

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Earn trust by working for (and with) readers

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Maria Bustillos   “It’s true — I saw it on Facebook”

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Errin Haines   Chaos or community?

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Trushar Barot   API or die

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Tressie McMillan Cottom   A path through the media’s coming legitimacy crisis

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Nushin Rashidian   A rise in high-price, high-value subscriptions

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Richard J. Tofel   The country doesn’t trust us — but they do believe us

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting