(2/3) Failing Lang-8

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Jan 20, 2018 17:01
Few people are willing to exert themselves to write articles often, because it involves deep thinking and takes writing skills to put their thoughts down, let alone to set pen to paper in a foreign language. This inertia is part of human nature. If writing and reading were as appealing to most people as video games and soap operas, teachers would never need to prod their students to write and read more.

Nowadays, an increasing number of people prefer to access the Internet on smartphones and end up getting caught up in a mess of alerts, likes, messages, and retweets. Fragmented reading prevails, leaving blogs in retreat. Aside from entailing more brainpower, it’s troublesome to type long blog entries on smartphones. The reason behind Lang-8’s new move is obvious: unable to buck the trend, they jumped on the bandwagon of content fragmentation. They are trying to make their service look like Twitter rather than a blog. They have shifted their focus from this blog site to the app "HiNative," hence the decline of Lang-8 we all have witnessed.

I’ll try to summarize the reasons Lang-8 is dying.

1) Many Lang-8 members came here with utilitarian motives. They signed up to prepare for their exams or to enlist the help of others for their translations. Once their goals were fulfilled, they left for good, or they would come back at some point when the need arised, but they were certainly not active users.

2) Indeed, some members came here not for exams, or at least not for impending ones. Brimming with optimism, they registered with the resolution to improve their foreign language skills. However, as I’ve mentioned earlier, they later got bored with their own writing and therefore quit. It takes a much greater effort than they thought to achieve a high level, not to mention that there were so many distractions along the way. Few could stick it out.

3) When Lang-8 was open for registration, hundreds* of new members came here every day, but most of them only stayed active for a short while, perpectuating the phenomena described in the above two points. Imagine a ballroom where people come and go for free, throwing parties and leaving mounds of garbage behind, with few becoming patrons and even fewer paying to become VIPs. This ballroom needs money for maintenance, but the revenue from membership fees is only a drop in the bucket*. The advertising revenue from users’ clicks can be helpful. However, can the profit generated by a certain ratio* of the users clicking ads cover the cost of operating*? I’m afraid not. Suffice it to say, Lang-8’s about-face has already proved that this blog site is not financially viable. After all, no one will slaughter his cash cow.

* I don't have the relevant statistics at hand, so I just made a rough estimate of these numbers. Sorry!