Mathew Lowry

EurActiv.com is opening one of its media innovations to other media interested in increasing competitiveness through translated syndication.

(Update, 31/3/16: this project was covered, among many other things, in an interview with professional EU interpreter Alexander Drechsel in his podcast Demos ex machina? Multilingual communication with Mathew Lowry).

EurActiv has been a digital media innovator since its birth, as I pointed out when I returned for my current part-time gig here. So I should not have been surprised to see my colleagues’ names in this year’s Language Technology Innovation 2016 conference programme.

In a classic case of small world networking, just before my “Buyer Challenge” on Hashtag Platform, they’ll be disclosing their CrossLingual Media Innovation programme during a “Solution Showcase” session. It’s even in the same room 🙂
CrossLingual will help secure the future of selected news media around Europe and help ideas flow better across borders. So what’s it all about? And how do you get involved?

Tested by 12 EurActiv teams…

EurActiv's media partners networkThe basic idea has already been tested for many years across the EurActiv network – the trilingual EurActiv.com, edited by teams in Brussels, Paris and Berlin, plus 9 EurActiv franchises in as many countries (details).

Each editorial team produces its own content, but also translates selected articles from the others in the network to widen and deepen their coverage. Some 2,750 pieces are translated every year, including most content produced in Paris and Berlin for EurActiv.com.

Given that it’s taken over 10 years to build this network, it should come as no surprise that EurActiv has been exploring how machine translation could help since an early collaboration in 2002 with Systrans, then the EU’s main machine translation tool.

What became known as the CrossLingual Media concept was tested frequently over the following years as the network developed. Things got really interesting when EurActiv’s translators launched parallel tests of both MT@EC (the European Commission’s current in-house machine translation tool) and technology from Latvian company Tilde.

It was these real-world tests that led to the Future Media Lab workshop last January. Now it’s time to take things a step further.

… but you don’t need to be one to benefit

The pitch is pretty simple: let’s create a platform allowing participating newsmedia to easily republish each others’ content across language barriers.

As you can imagine, most news media do not want competitors to republish their content.

But a German newsmagazine is not in competition with a French newspaper: publishing in different languages means publishing to different audiences. So why shouldn’t they translate and use each others’ content to widen and deepen their coverage?

After all, it’s not as if each media writes everything they publish: as revenues fall, most media are republishing more press agency content than ever before. This is big business: Reuters had almost $US13bn in revenues in 2014, for example, while in July 2015 IbisWorld estimated that the UK market alone had revenues of £3bn (€3.9b).

In other words, news is being commoditised, with more media publishing identical content bought from a tiny handful of international press agencies.

Advanced technologies, limited membership

Let’s create a high-quality alternative, where content from trusted partners is machine-translated, automatically categorised and seamlessly delivered directly to all participating medias’ content management systems.

What’s more, let’s build a platform which improves as it grows, with the machine translation engine learning from every correction participating media make to its machine translations.

Unlike largely manual experiments (Europa club, LENA and the late Presseurop.eu), this means using some advanced technologies, as summarised at January’s Future Media Lab.

The same event showed that membership will have to be limited. To begin with, one of the key messages which emerged from the Future Media Lab workshop was trust:

“participating media will need to be sure that the content they re-use comes from quality sources, particularly as the Platform may remove the articles’ surrounding context”
Exploring Translated Syndication at Future Media Lab 2016

It’s clear that only media meeting certain standards will be allowed into the CrossLingual Platform.

Get onboard

By providing seamless access to machine translated articles from trusted media, CrossLingual will allow journalists to either localise these translations for their own audience, and/or use them as source material for their own content.
Either way, they will cost-effectively increase revenue by increasing the volume of content produced and/or the depth of their coverage.
It will also create a Europe-wide network of cooperating media, providing new pan-European sponsorship and advertising opportunities.

And apart from reinforcing participating medias’ competitiveness and generating new jobs, CrossLingual will help national perspectives flow across borders, supporting Pan-European public debate.

Before and After (right): CrossLingual will help Subscribing Media republish each other’s content across language barriers, supporting media and media voice diversity.

For more information:

Disclosure: as mentioned in the opening paragraph, EurActiv is a client.

Further reading

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