An interesting report came from GigaOM on Thursday. The site was told by a Google spokesperson that 60 percent of their overall views come from non-English speaking people. They got that information from looking at the overall viewers who pick another language as the site's chief display language. With the recent addition of IsiZulu and Afrikaans to cater to potential South African viewers, the site now is available in 51 languages. South African views increased 175% over the last year, the first year of YouTube's existence in that country.
The Global Entertainment Shift For Target Audiences
One thing you might have grown up caring about in some way or another over the past couple of decades is how much money a movie makes in its opening weekend. Somehow, movies that made "only" tens of millions of dollars in North America could be considered flops if they were set up to be huge mega-blockbusters that aspired to break records. Now, you're seeing a total shift in how studios treat movies. They simply don't care if the movie breaks records in North America anymore, because it doesn't affect the bottom line as much as it once did.
For instance, look at this summer's Thor. Budgeted at $150 million, the movie made about $180 million in North America, which in "the old days" meant you probably didn't break even because you have to share ticket revenue with movie theaters. But Thor was made with global box office in mind (it starred Anthony Hopkins, it was directed by Kenneth Branagh), and went on to gross another $260 million or so elsewhere in the world. You can see this type of thinking in almost every big movie nowadays. It's why, despite the fact that many of you were probably underwhelmed with the latest Pirates of the Caribbean or Transformers movies this summer, their billion-dollar grosses worldwide will ensure other chapters will be made no matter what the cost.
For YouTube, this means the closer your content can be to translating over many cultures, the better chance it has of reaching a wider audience. I think this is why stuff like cat videos and skydiving videos tend to be such popular entries, because it doesn't require knowing any one language to enjoy it. I don't think the "60 percent of YouTube users pick a language other than English" means to start making videos where you translate them into 51 languages. It just means that if your videos are entirely reliant on one language, or specific pop culture, you have narrowed the amount of people you can reach.
Those who have the resources should try everything in their power to appeal to a wider audience. For instance, Toyota has a branded web series campaign for their 2012 Camry right now that stars Lee Min Ho, a South Korean actor. On Toyota's "One And Only" site, you can pick subtitles from English, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, meaning the series is attempting to appeal to a wide Asian and English-speaking audience, with an exciting action series campaign involving the new Camry:
They aren't trying to get everyone in the world, but they are appealing to a wider group of people than just English-speakers. It's something to think about when you create content.