Alexandre Crazover, Founder of Datawords
“Internet doesn’t abolish traditional geograhic frontiers, it does not dissolve cultural identities, doesn’t lay down linguistic differences: it consecrate them. The future of internet is not global, it is anchored in the territory. It’s time to stop speaking of Internet with an «I», but rather speak of «The InternetS». Internet is “smart” – not against cultural exception – or “intelligent”: it says the future of internet, the internet of knowledge”.
In “Smart. Enquête sur les internets“, author Frédéric Martel tells us how much, in a period of intense globalization thanks to the internet, the latter is “territorialized, multi-streamed, geolocalized”: smart. And its future will be ever more, “spreaded, multipolarized, the expression of true, hyper localness”.
Which country better than China illustrates this internet without frontiers, but with virtual boundaries, the so called “Great Fire Wall” ? A book smart enough, so that we wanted to prolong the conversation with Alexandre Crazover*, Founder of Datawords, on why and how internet is not global either for his business, how his company deals with e-multiculturalism and glocalization
China Connect: Are there any chapters, facts, or anecdotes which illustrate SMART’s motto of Glocalisation »/ « Territorialism »/ « Regionalisation »/ « Relocalization » that particularly striked you?
Alexandre Crazover: There are so many! Actually what struck me the most is how relevant the whole book is, and how close its thesis is to my own experience and to the issues handled by the Datawords team every day! This book has the merit of shaking up the illusion of a monolithic Internet as a unique, English-speaking, globalised marketplace. Frédéric Martel reaches a conclusion that will seem counter-intuitive to many: the internet is not hostile to identities and local differences. The diversity of uses of the internet, based on territorialisation, balances out the globalisation phenomenon associated with digital technology. The internet is anchored in a place, “In Real Life” and takes on real sense of closeness. It is a fantastic tool for diversity: local singularities, cultures, languages all have their place in this digital world.
For a brand, succeeding in the international deployment of its digital strategy and the various types of content that it produces is not about appearing international. It is about knowing how to highlight your local identity: wanting to be Japanese in Tokyo, Chinese in Guangzhou and Italian in Milan. Everywhere the web is different, because it is impacted profoundly by this territorialisation phenomenon. As Frédéric Martel states it, internet is not one, there are several internets.
China Connect: There are many funny anecdotes in “SMART”, illustrating the limits of the concept of territoriality: can you tell us some you’ve experienced in the past or recently in your day-to-day operations, globally, in Asia and China in particular?
Alexandre Crazover: The homepage of the beverage company Suntory is a good example of this, if you compare the Japanese site to the page in English. To Western eyes Asian websites often seem overcrowded with text and pictures but beyond the colourful aspect, punctuations and symbols can be very important. Never forget to get rid of the elegant black framework around the picture of a model or of your company CEO, otherwise your Asian reader will believe he or she is deceased. We also work with major brands to modify some of their online forms in order to include a third option to the gender declaration in countries where this situation is recognised: in Japan for instance, internet users can choose to select a third gender rather than “he” or “she” when they identify themselves.
China Connect: A key trend of the WWW, is the power of recommendation. Chinese netizens are huge contributors and peers’ recommendations is the n°1 source of information/trust to buy products: do you play any role at this stage ? If yes, can you describe it?
Alexandre Crazover: We help brands to set up and implement the technologies that allow internet users to express themselves on a brand and its products on social media platforms that are the most relevant locally. We help them interact with their consumers, update their own content and monitor to the clients’ online feedback. But we never influence on the content of comments.
China Connect: Conveying the uniqueness of the internet in many countries has a bright future according to SMART’s author (good for your business!): how different is your business from say, 10 or 5 years ago? How do you see it evolving, what do you anticipate, and are there any new requests from your clients?
Alexandre Crazover: Thanks! Datawords has indeed developed enormously since our creation 15 years ago. When we started, at the end of 1999, most companies did not give any importance to Asia and having their websites in French and English was considered ‘largely sufficient’. The first shift came in 2002 with the Football World Cup in Japan and Korea, and the perspective of the Olympic Games in Beijing: major brands started to understand the importance of a localised website and we saw a growing demand in Japanese and then in Chinese.
We then grew together with our clients by expanding our range of services to include new languages (over 50), open new offices (8 with the recent opening in New York City), and develop new skills such as the production and international deployment of multilingual banners, or the multilingual moderation of social networks. Today we can run digital campaigns whatever the format or language in more than 40 countries simultaneously.
Regarding the coming years, we are very much in line with the trends highlighted by Frédéric Martel in his book (growth of social networks / peer recommendations / rise of video and social TV / content / etc.) and his core analysis. Internet will be more and more local, less and less “mainstream”, with 3 billion of new internet users emerging from territories (in Africa, South East Asia, etc.) with strong local traditions and culture. One of the consequences on our business is that we see a growing interest in the languages of countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia or Nigeria. We also observe an increase in requests for our multilingual video subtitling, dubbing and voice-over services. We adapt our clients’ videos in all languages and all existing formats. We see the growth of video content as a major trend with the quick merger between TV and the Internet. Multilingual subtitling or dubbing should become the norm to ensure the viral potential of a video content by making it accessible to different markets.
Laure de Carayon
Founder&Ceo China Connect
*Alexandre Crazover is the founder of Datawords, the pioneer of e-multiculturalism. Datawords has developed unique know-how and expertise in adapting the digital strategies of its clients and making them meaningful on a local level, enabling brands to accelerate their international expansion.