What Is Media Localization and Why Do Businesses Need it?

March 15, 2024
What Is Media Localization and Why Do Businesses Need it?

Are you familiar with the concept of media localization? I’m being asked about this more and more these days, so I thought it was worth putting pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard) and spending a few minutes exploring the concept. In this article, I’ll run through what media localization is, which types of creative media it applies to, what the advantages of it are and how translators can help businesses to tackle it. 

Shall we jump straight in? 

What Is Media Localization? 

Let’s start with a quick creative media definition. What is creative media?
According to Arts Council England, ‘creative media’ means, “artistic and cultural works and content created for digital platforms or distributed digitally to reach the public.”

Now, that’s a pretty broad definition, and I’ll look at some of the categories that it encompasses in a moment. But first, what does ‘media localization’ mean? Well, localization is the process of adapting materials to suit a new audience. Thus, media localization is the process of adapting materials from a creative media source to suit a new audience. 

What does localization mean for the audience in question? It means that the content they are watching, or listening to, feels as though it has been created with them in mind. Successful media localization therefore incorporates multiple elements. We’ll look at those in detail below too. 

Which Types of Creative Media Content Can Be Localized? 

When it comes to content, creative media has a vast amount to offer. Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of creative media and how translators can support businesses to use them. 

TV Content

Have you watched Squid Game? How about Money Heist? Unless you watched them in Korean and Spanish respectively, you’ve already consumed localized TV content. Language plays a key role in that media localization process, of course, but it is only one element of many (read on to discover the rest). 

If a business creates TV content for digital platforms, and wants to reach out to new audiences, that’s where media localization comes in. There’s a well-known real estate company in Portugal, for example, that sells property to English buyers. One of its marketing tools is its own digital TV show, which explores everything from the local legal framework to Portuguese culture, as well as showcasing properties in each episode. If that company decided to begin selling to German buyers, it could use media localization for its TV show as part of that strategy, converting the content that was developed for English audiences into shows aimed at Germans. 


The same is true of companies that use documentary-style films to promote their products or raise awareness of their brand or cause. The investment involved in high-quality filming can be significant. As such, being able to get more value out of that filming, by spending comparatively little on media localization, makes a lot of sense. 

Other Video Content

Of course, in our increasingly digital world there are all sorts of other types of video content that a business might use. Whether running a popular YouTube channel or acting as a prolific vlogger, translators can support businesses to  use media localization to map their content across to new audiences in a way that ensures it resonates with them. 


Not all creative media examples include a visual element. Do any of your translation clients use a radio show format to market their goods or services? If so, media localization can do much to support their international expansion. 


Podcasts can also benefit from media localization. They are used by a wide range of businesses, often to demonstrate thought leadership, explore products or concepts in depth, connect with other business leaders and more. Delivering them in other languages to new audiences is a great way to get value out of each podcast, as well as to showcase a business from multiple angles. 

What Are the Business Benefits of Media Localization? 

I’ll explore below just what media localization entails, but before we dive into the technical detail, let’s think about why your business clients might want to think about media localization as part of their creative media development strategy - and how you can help them to deliver this. 

Domestic Growth

First and foremost, adapting creative media content to suit different audiences can support businesses to grow. This growth can be in terms of the geographic area in which a business operates and in terms of its customer numbers. And it can be both domestic and international. 

Let’s take a London-based business as an example. A company looking to grow its customer base might not need to look overseas for new audiences – there’s plenty of scope to engage new audiences in London itself. Project Britain reports that London is the most linguistically diverse capital city on the planet, with Londoners collectively speaking more than 250 languages. This means that a London business looking to connect with new customers could use media localization for domestic purposes, reaching out with content that’s been adapted specifically to suit Londoners who speak languages other than English as their native tongues. 

The same could be true for any business located in a city or country where multiple languages are spoken – it has the potential to expand its customer base without changing its geographic area of operation. 

International Growth

Of course, media localization can help businesses that wish to expand internationally as well. The same process applies, with localization specialists adapting the content to fit with the language and culture of the target audience. 

Building a reputation internationally brings wider benefits than simply growing customer numbers. When managed carefully, international growth can help a business mitigate the risk of being tied to the economy of a single country. By operating across multiple environments, the risk of an economic crash in one country is balanced by the economic performance in others. 

Of course, at the heart of all this is the fact that a business that scales successfully has the potential to make more money. It’s never as black and white as more customers immediately equalling a better bottom line, but when growth is managed well, this can certainly be the case, and supporting your translation clients by providing media localization can play an important role in this. 

What Does Creative Media Localization Entail? 

The localization of creative media takes audio visual content and adapts it for new audiences. But what does localize mean in terms of process? As I mentioned above, language is a factor in this, but there’s also plenty more involved. And it all starts with research. 

Find Out What Your Audience Wants

Before you rush out to translate your clients’ creative content, first help them think about what their audience wants. After all, researching an audience’s expectations gives a business a much better chance of meeting those expectations. 

For example, does the target country normally consume content from overseas with dubbing and voice-overs or with subtitles? You’ll need to work with your client to ensure they know which woud be more appropriate, rather than making assumptions. 

This is just one example of something you need to look into before you begin localizing your client’s creative media content. Ultimately, the more market research you can support a business to undertake, the better your chance will be of delivering localized content that will prove to be a hit with its intended audience. 

Hire the Right Localization Company 

When it comes to finding the right company to work on their media localization, businesses need to look beyond language. Yes, the quality of the translation work is very important, but so is the company’s cultural knowledge, the timeliness with which it delivers, the quality and availability of its customer service and its project management expertise. If you can show a business that you can deliver on all thse fronts, you will do much to assure them that they are in a strong position to localize their creative content successfully. 

In terms of what your localization company will deliver, this breaks down as follows: 

Content Extraction

The company will need to extract the content from the audio visual file that you provide to them in order to work with it. A decent localization company will be happy to work with a wide range of source formats. 

Translation and Localization

Next, the company will use expert linguists to translate and localize the text. This will cover any spoken dialogue in the file, along with any on-screen copy. The linguists should be native speakers of the target language and should have an in-depth understanding of the target culture. By applying this expertise to the text they are working on, they can ensure that they deliver something that will sound natural in the target language and that will be culturally appropriate. 

Subtitling and Dubbing

Any voice acting work or writing of subtitles should be undertaken once the text has been translated. This will ensure it is incorporated into the final file. 

Creating the New Content

The next step is for the company to bring all that adapted content together and deliver it back in the original file format. You then need to check it to make sure that everything is as it should be. Running it past a native speaker of your target language is always a good step to include in your checks – one or more of your market research participants could be of help here. 

Thoughts on Cultural Adaptation 

When you’re localizing your creative content, take particular care over the cultural side of things. Delivering a flawlessly translated video is relatively pointless, for example, if the people speaking in it aren’t dressed in a way that’s appropriate for the intended audience. In fact, this kind of faux pas could actually backfire and lead to damage to your client’s reputation, instead of the international growth they had envisioned. 

SEO Optimization 

Another important consideration is whether you need to optimize for SEO in the target language. Google is paying a lot of heed to video content these days, so if a business doesn’t yet have an SEO strategy in relation to its media localization, it might be time for it work on one. Ensure you can help with your client’s strategy and preferences when it comes to SEO optimization for international audiences by discussing this at the point they engage you – not during the final proof of the adapted file. 

Top Tips for Creating Media Content that Resonates with International Audiences

I’ll finish with a few tips that should contribute to the success of your media localization and make the overall process smoother and more enjoyable for all those involved. 

Firstly, whenever possible, encourage your clients to create content with localization in mind from the outset. This means using clear, simple language for any new audio visual content and avoiding idioms, jokes or references that only make sense in one language or to one culture. 

It’s also important not to make any ‘one size fits all’ assumptions when it comes to language. Spanish provides a good example of this. The Spanish spoken in Spain is different to that spoken in Mexico, which in turn is different to that spoken in Chile, which in turn is different to… (you get the point – and for a full list of countries that speak Spanish, you can click the link below). Regional language variations like these need to be taken into account when you localize your clients’ creative media content. If they’re not, you reduce the likely impact of that content on the target audience. 

Finally, be sure to leave plenty of time for the localization process. It can be intricate work that requires a whole team of individuals to contribute to it, so factor that into your planning, along with plenty of time for checking and possibly tweaking the final product. 

Read more: Spanish Speaking Countries


How do we address the challenge of localizing humor and idiomatic expressions in media content?

We've learned that the key to localizing humor and idiomatic expressions lies in understanding the cultural context deeply. It's not just about translating words but conveying the intended emotion or humor. Collaborating with local creators can offer insights into what resonates with the audience, allowing us to craft content that feels natural and engaging.

What strategies can we employ to keep up with rapidly changing trends in media consumption across different cultures?

Staying relevant requires us to be agile and well-informed. We make it a practice to continuously monitor media trends and consumption patterns in our target locales. Engaging with local audiences through social media and feedback mechanisms also helps us adapt our content dynamically, ensuring it aligns with current preferences and cultural nuances.

In what ways can we measure the effectiveness and impact of our localized media content?

Measuring effectiveness involves both quantitative and qualitative analyses. We track engagement metrics such as views, shares, and comments to gauge the content's reach. Equally important, we seek out direct feedback from the audience to understand the emotional and cultural impact, adjusting our strategies based on this comprehensive feedback to enhance future localization efforts.

Wrap Up 

Bearing all this in mind, will you be using media localization to help your business clients achieve their growth goals over the coming years? Or have you already begun to do so? If so, why not leave a comment below and share your experience and tips with those who are just beginning to explore the concept of media localization? 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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