Not long ago, digital media, awash in venture capital, was shouting from the rooftops about plans for global expansion. Arianna Huffington aspired to have her namesake publishing company in 50 markets by the end of the decade. BuzzFeed, Mashable and Business Insider expressed similar global ambitions. BuzzFeed back in 2015 said it’d be launching in as many as six markets that year, including Mexico, Canada and Tokyo, and saw similar ambitions for the following year.
Fast forward to today, and those ambitions, like everything else in digital media, have been somewhat tempered. Mashable reportedly is closing its Asia operation after its recent fire sale to Ziff Davis. HuffPost (even its name has been condensed) has around 17 international editions. In India and Australia, the HuffPost is ending its relationships with local news partners and going it alone.
Making overseas expansion a meaningful business is hard. Certain publications don’t easily translate overseas because of cultural differences and sensibilities, or the publication can miss local nuances, as Eater did when it miffed Brits by calling mincemeat on toast a “classic” and as BuzzFeed did when it failed to realize a Nutella recipe wouldn’t do well in Brazil because the ingredient is very costly there. Such missteps can cost audience growth and hence ad dollars.