Posted by: patenttranslator | August 30, 2016

Marketing and Propaganda Overload

Since the newspaper that I read, or at least scan every day, has been recently bought by a skinny, bald rich guy whose name is Jeff Bezos, I’ve noticed how a couple of times a week there are sections in it that look just like news sections, but instead are what is called in newspeak “supplements”, or propaganda of foreign governments, the Chinese government and the Russian government in particular, that is aimed straight at American readers. This foreign propaganda probably looks just like another section of the Washington Post to many readers who may easily miss the labeling in small letters on the first page identifying these propaganda sections of the Chinese and Russian governments as “advertising supplements”.

And why not? If Russia and China pay good money to Jeff Bezos to print their propaganda in my newspaper, why not let them sell their “news coverage” to American audiences? After all, what is the difference between China, Russia and America at this point?

The news broadcasts on my local TV stations are also full of segments that are mostly advertisements masquerading as news, for instance when the beautiful people called “news casters” inform the public about the importance of using sunscreen on hot, sunny days at the beach. It is so hard to distinguish between straight advertising and the news/advertising mixture that I basically only watch weather forecasts on my local TV channels.

Facebook was basically designed to make loads of money by turning everything that anybody says and anything anybody thinks about into an advertisement for something.

My guess is that Shakespeare would not have appreciated that a world that used to be a perfect stage for his comedies and tragedies only a few short centuries ago was turned into a huge marketing platform for launching products and services. There is not a single marketing or advertising segment in any of his plays, unless the end scene in Romeo and Juliet is a marketing platform for assisted suicide.

It is not easy to identify the marketing content that I find so frequently in my newspaper as it is now seamlessly blended with what is at this point called news.

For example, on Tuesdays, the Washington Post publishes a “Health Section”, which contains articles that simply must be hidden, paid advertisements for various medications and medical products and services.

On Saturday I pick up a Real Estate Section with my paper from my driveway – about 20 pages of dozens of advertisements for high-priced rentals and properties for sale, with a few articles thrown in for good measure to laud the beauty of new real estate properties in and around Washington D.C.

Affordable properties, which means small condos with a few hundred square feet, start at about $449,000 (for the really tiny ones), which is still much cheaper than in San Francisco, a beautiful city full of wonderfully weird people where I was very fortunate to live for a whole decade while the rents were still reasonable there in the 1980s, before everything was turned into commercial and political propaganda. With the exception of current rates of lending institutions taking up about half a page, there is no real information in the “Real Estate Section” about what is going on in real estate, it’s all just marketing sold to subscribers instead of news.

It is thus no wonder that when the number of readers of a formerly completely insignificant translation blog mushrooms after a while into a respectable number, a perfectly natural reaction of a happily surprised blogger would be to start thinking: gee, maybe I can make some money out of this thing after all.

Especially given how the community of formerly independent translators has been abused for more than a decade and is still being battered, abused and shortchanged by “the translation industry”, i.e. brokers who may not know anything about translation, but who are genuine and highly innovative experts at creating very sophisticated designs for buying translations low and selling them high, monetization of a translation blog is probably a thought that has been on the mind of many a translation blogger. Since the easiest way to turn a blog into a money making instrument would be to turn it into a marketing platform for something having to do with translation, it certainly did cross my mind that this is something that I might try myself too. After all, the rates being paid to translators by “the translation industry” are quite a bit lower than ten or five years ago.

Since it only makes sense to start looking at alternative revenue sources under these circumstances, some bloggers, including translation bloggers, are pulling out all the stops in their pursuit of life, happiness and trying to make money the American way – by advertising goodies they are selling while pretending to be providing useful information.

I am not going to name names here, but you probably know who they are, and they themselves definitely know who they are.

After all, it is not just bloggers, including translation bloggers, who are trying to make money by offering information that is mostly advertising. Everybody is doing it, and some people are doing it so well that sometimes it feels like the whole word, all of which used to be a stage in Shakespeare’s time, has been slowly but inevitably turned into a huge marketing platform.

It makes me sad when I see that some translation bloggers have converted their blogs into launch pads for commercial propaganda that have very little information in them apart from what is clearly identifiable as marketing content.

The blogs are in this respect very similar to corporate “blogs” of translation agencies that instead of providing useful information for readers (clients and potential clients) mostly just praise the excellence of services provided by wisely managed and totally cool and awesome translation agencies.

I am not really that much against the idea of using a translation blog as a platform to sell something. If I could figure out how to make money in this manner and still dare and be allowed to have some fun, maybe I would start doing it myself.

But what does bother me is when particularly greedy translator-bloggers don’t mind spreading the pernicious propaganda of the translation industry in their posts. Instead of explaining to newbies where things stand at this point, how “the translation industry” really works and what it is about, they offer courses for newbie translators in which they promise to teach useful survival techniques. But instead of explaining to new translators how to find clients, in particular direct clients (which would be very valuable advice), they teach them how to prepare the perfect résumé that will be noticed among thousands of other resumes saturating “the translation industry” mill, and how to adopt new cutting-edge technological tools, such as adding post-processing of machine translation detritus to the range of translator’s skills.

When I read translator blogs that spread this kind of “translation industry” information, I have to wonder whether the bloggers really believe what they are saying in their posts, or whether “the translation industry” is paying them to write these things, just like China and Russia is paying Jeff Bezos to subject Washington Post readers to propaganda disguised as news supplied and paid for by foreign governments – governments of countries that are not very friendly to Americans, or about as friendly as the modern form of “the translation industry” is to translators.

Knowing how to go about post-processing of machine translation is a useful skill, but only if you consider knowing how to quickly and efficiently dig your own grave with the best tools to be a useful skill.

 


Responses

  1. The dynamic you describe is sickening indeed (i.e., both in the larger world and in the world of translation).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was a terrific post, Steve. I think the most useful skill kids should be taught in school would be how to separate truth from marketing (or propaganda). This is where we, who had spent our formative years in totalitarian regimes, have a big advantage, as we always knew pretty much everything media or teachers feed us is a big fat lie. This is what bothers me a bit in the U.S. – the complete, naive, eager gullibility of readers and viewers, the “I want to believe” attitude. And that, unfortunately, is true about translators as well. The fact that there is obviously a “market” for marketing gurus of all (or none) levels of expertise is on par with translators accepting projects from obvious scammers. Both is a symptom of the lack of critical and analytical thinking – and how that is reflected in the translation work itself would be another question to ask.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The most important skill for kids to learn in school is to be able to think for themselves. I wonder whether they are still learning that these days.

    Little did we know that the bullshit/propaganda/marketing meter we developed naturally over there would come in so handy over here.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah, I’m getting so rich on the $100 payments that I’m moving to the beach. Come on, Steve. We want to share our knowledge, and presentations are a much more effective way of doing so than in blog posts. And I can assure you that ATA is not paying me to publicize a presentation that I have been working hard on to help translators become better formatters and translators. Continuing education and adapting are important to keep skills current.

    Like

  5. “Come on, Steve. We want to share our knowledge, and presentations are a much more effective way of doing so than in blog posts.”

    I do both. But since my blog reaches many more people than the presentations that I give, in person and on internet, I have to disagree with you about what is more important.

    Like

  6. ‘But what does bother me is when particularly greedy translator-bloggers don’t mind spreading the pernicious propaganda of the translation industry in their posts. Instead of explaining to newbies where things stand at this point, how “the translation industry” really works and what it is about, they offer courses for newbie translators in which they promise to teach useful survival techniques. But instead of explaining to new translators how to find clients, in particular direct clients (which would be very valuable advice), they teach them how to prepare the perfect résumé that will be noticed among thousands of other resumes saturating “the translation industry” mill, and how to adopt new cutting-edge technological tools, such as adding post-processing of machine translation detritus to the range of translator’s skills.’ — Every. Word.

    Like

  7. Thanks for your comment, Luke.

    I think you are saying that every word is true, but without the verb at the end, it could also mean that every word is nonsense.

    See my great dilemma?

    Liked by 2 people


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