Found in Translation: How Captioning and Translation Can Deliver Eyeballs

I recently heard a story about the power of captioning and translation that I wanted to share.

By way of background, I was writing a story about cloud encoding, talking to various users to learn why they choose to encode in the cloud, rather than on premise. One of the companies I spoke with was Dotsub, which provides captioning and translation services (and uses Heywatch as their cloud encoder). Part of the Dotsub site is a free community portal, where anyone can post a video in any language, and anyone interested enough can translate the captions to a new language and upload them. 

I was discussing the power of captioning with Brooks Lyrette, Dotsub’s CTO, and he related a story that Dotsub’s CEO, David Orban, had recently shared during a presentation. The video he discussed was originally produced in Belgium in German, and documented how members of the European Parliament abuse the system to collect over 14,000 Euros a month (more than Angela Merkel gets paid) while barely working. It’s a powerful bit of investigative journalism that I’ve embedded below. 

Here’s a graph of the viewing history of the video, pulled from the presentation on Slideshare. The peaks represent increased views after the captions were translated and made available in Czech and French. 


And here’s Orban’s description from the talk:

When you bring video technology and video discovery to the surface, you can discover incredible new, previously unknown phenomena. This is a 6-minute journalistic video shot in German that was sitting on Dotsub’s servers doing very little for month after month after month until somebody translated it into Czech. And it exploded in the Czech Republic and it petered off and then a little bit later somebody translated it into French and it re-exploded in France. After 2 years of a few thousand views, this video in 2 months had 3 million views in languages that were 90% not its own language. 

Every site is different, and the benefit of captioning will vary significantly for each site. Without question, however, captioning improves video SEO rankings and enhances service to the hearing impaired. Now we learn that it can also dramatically expand the reach of your video, if you have a compelling story to tell.  

You can find Dotsub’s self-serve pricing here. The CliffNote’s version is that captioning costs $6.00/minute for English, and $7.00/minute for Spanish (Dotsub’s enterprise service can input videos in any language). Once captioned, translation services range from $10/minute to $20.00/minute. To put this in perspective, worst case, using self-serve pricing, it would have cost about $2,200 to caption and translate the Parliament video discussed above into the 18 languages now available. Seems pretty reasonable for over three million views. To caption and translate a six-minute video to one language, say English to Spanish, would cost under $100. 

Here’s the video.