Geocloning and the globalization of media


The other day I was having a conversation with a senior executive of Reed Elsevier about the future of media, and in discussing their inititiatives he used the word “geocloning”. I immediately took up on this neat and intriguing neologism, which obviously means taking a business and duplicating it in its entirety in another country. I later Googled the term, and found that geocloning seems at this stage to be a word used exclusively by Reed Elsevier, however it uses it freely in its investor communication.

The word interests me because it immediately evokes many of the issues in the globalization of media. One of the key themes of the Future of Media Summit 2007 (as last year) is Global Strategies for Media:

New distribution channels allow content creators anywhere to access global markets. A useful way to identify some of the variables across media markets is to compare key features of the US and Australian media markets, including industry structure, ownership concentration, scale, demographic, and technology platforms. This helps to identify appropriate global strategies for media industry participants.

The core issue is that while the Internet allows global distribution for digital content, localization is often required. At the highest level, language and format may need to be changed. Entertainment in some cases benefits from localization, such as country versions of Big Brother or American Idol, or Russian imitations of American soap operas or Latin American telenovelas. Global syndicated news is often localized with currency translations and addition of local relevance or commentary. Local niche media is a growing space, however it requires a judicious mix of local and broader customized content.

Even more adaptation is required for participatory media models such as social networks and classifieds. Bebo, for example, is the third largest social network in the US, the largest in Ireland, yet is only present in six countries. Habbo, the Finnish social network, is in 29 countries. In both cases the networks are implemented differently across countries and cultures.

Going back to the concept of geocloning, it is clear that very few businesses of any kind will flourish in a different country if replicated in every aspect. This is especially true in media, where the differences range across industry structure, legislation, demographics, technology, culture, norms and more. From a strategic perspective, the question then becomes isolating the levers of the business. Each of the key aspects of the business need to be examined to determine whether or how much it needs to be adapted in the new location. This can create a model where businesses are not geocloned as such, but specific adjustments are made when they are dropped into new countries.

Bowne and LionBridge are two fairly large companies that specialize in localization for their clients, particularly software companies. In a global economy, the localization business is going to be a good one to be in. However it is difficult for media operators to outsource their localization needs – this is a capability that they need to develop themselves. Over the next few years the media conglomerates and other major players will be stepping up their globalization, localization, and geocloning initiatives. Being outstanding at these will be a critical differentiator in a world of intensely globalized media.