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As the World Turns: The Changing Fortunes of Online Languages in 2017
Posted by Benjamin B. Sargent on August 16, 2017  in the following blogs: Global Marketing, Market Data, Web Globalization
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Big changes are afoot in cyberspace. In recent years, populations in Africa, Asia, and Oceania surged online with the aid of cheap data plans and government investments. In Myanmar, for example, the mobile grid went up in 2014 and a total population of 53 million now shows 33 million subscriptions, with 80% smartphone penetration and over 50% with active data plans. China initiatives, such as Belt and Road, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, are bringing jobs, infrastructure, and international trade to regions previously disconnected from global markets and unsupported by localized apps. Engagement in the digital world is already rising, as is apparent in the rising value of online languages used in these areas.

Each year, CSA Research publishes benchmark metrics on economic opportunity and audience size for online languages. In this year’s data, we identified measurable economic opportunity in 139 languages, up from 129 in 2016. A steep drop in opportunity after Tier One languages creates a “long tail” effect, such that each subsequent tier equates roughly to the value of a single Tier One language, when viewed in scale (see Figures).

English and Tier One Languages Account for 90% of Online GDP 
Source: CSA Research, “Digital Opportunity: The Top 100 Languages for 2017”

Stopping After Tier One Loses 10% of Online GDP and Almost 30% of Online Audience
Source: CSA Research, “Digital Opportunity: The Top 100 Languages for 2017”

While the share of market opportunity held by most European languages continues to drop, English grew ahead of the internet as a whole by finding pockets of hyper-growth in Africa, Asia, and Oceania. The biggest gainers by market share include languages like Indonesian (101%), Burmese (100%), Urdu (68%), Bengali (60%), Filipino (40%), and Swahili (35%). Note that there is a two year advance in the underlying data from our 2016 benchmarks – the 2017 update features data from current year, not prior year as used in the past.

Evaluation of return on content begins with understanding the language composition of the online world. The CSA Research benchmarks provide content and product strategy teams with baseline metrics for the size and economic opportunity of online language communities. The opportunity measure, online GDP (e-GDP), falls below the audience share for most languages after Tier One due to unequal distribution of wealth around the world. Those linguistic communities have yet to unlock their full economic potential, but brands looking to the future should pay careful attention to the power of “long tail” language growth. Growth-oriented brands seek to get in on the ground floor to gain market share before the competition.

Language services providers can use the same figures for resource planning and proactive recommendations to enterprise clients. CSA Research clients can download the PDF document here, or request the Excel version with data for all 139 languages from our customer experience team.


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Keywords: High-demand and low-demand languages, Language and market selection, Measurement, Online gross domestic product (e-GDP), Return on investment, Web globalization, World online wallet (WOW) factor

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