(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!

[Revised]
没几个人愿意静下心来写文章,因为写文章需要用脑,还需要一定的写作能力理清思路,更别提用外语写作了。这种惰性是人性的一部分。如果阅读和写作跟电子游戏、肥皂剧一样有趣的话,学校里的老师们也不必苦口婆心地劝学生们多看多写了。

如今,越来越多的人通过手机上网,迷失在乱七八糟的消息、点赞和转发中。碎片化阅读盛行,博客节节败退。除了需要更多的脑力,在手机上码长文也是受罪。Lang-8公司的举动很明显:既然无法对抗趋势,为何不加入碎片化内容的大潮呢。所以,他们的产品越来越像推特,而不是博客了。他们把精力转移到了手机app上,对这个博客网站置之不理,导致Lang-8日渐式微。

我大概总结一下为何Lang-8正在消亡:

1)很多Lang-8用户来到这里都带有功利性目的,要不就是准备考试,要不是急需翻译帮助。一旦时效一过,从此再不回头,即便后面如果有类似需求,有些人还会来看看,但他们终归不是活跃用户。

2)诚然,一些用户来这里不是为了考试,至少不是为了短期突击。在注册的时候,他们信心满满,想着要提高外语能力,结果后来发现掌握外语并非一日之寒,更不用说一路上各种分心的事情,这足以找各种借口放弃。能坚持下来的寥寥无几。

3)当Lang-8还能注册时,每天数百人纷至沓来,但只会待上一小段时间,重复上述两点动作。假设Lang-8是一个舞厅,人们来去自如,无需付费,开了party后,留下一大堆垃圾,只有少数人成为常客,甚至更少人会付费成VIP。舞厅需要钱维持,但是VIP费简直是杯水车薪。会员点击广告固然有帮助,但是全体用户大幅增长的同时,活跃用户的增长却不成正比。客户点击广告带来的利润是否能盖过网站运营费用呢?答案是否定的。Lang-8公司关闭注册功能,就已经说明了盈利不理想。毕竟没有人会砍掉自己的摇钱树。